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Opera singer Charity Tillemann-Dick, who had two double lung transplants, dead at 35

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 4/25/2019 Kate Feldman
a person standing in front of a building © Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Charity Tillemann-Dick, a celebrated opera singer who underwent two double lung transplants after being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, has died.

She was 35.

Tillemann-Dick, who often went by “Charity Sunshine,” was diagnosed at 20. Five years later, she had a double long transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, a surgery that left her in a coma for more than a month.

Almost immediately, her body began rejecting the new lungs, even though the transplant was expected to last at least five years.

In 2011, with an oxygen tank and wheelchair offstage, Tilleman-Dick debuted at the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater. Less than a year later, she underwent her second double lung transplant.

“I think she gives me voice,” she previously told CBS News of her donor.

In 2014, her debut album, “American Grace,” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s traditional classical charts as Tilleman-Dick continued to perform, as well as launch an advocacy career that saw her serve as the national spokeswoman for the Pulmonary Hypertension Association and give multiple TED Talks.

She also battled skin cancer, which doctors said was likely caused by anti-rejection drugs from her lung transplants, the Washington Post previously reported.

“This morning, life’s curtain closed on one of its consummate heroines. Our beloved Charity passed peacefully with her husband, mother, and siblings at her side and sunshine on her face,” Tillemann-Dick’s family wrote on Facebook.

“Our hearts are broken. In this moment, the world is dark. But Charity’s rays extend far beyond her tragic finale on this earthly stage. Her light continues to illuminate the hearts of thousands and, in that way, Charity is with us always. She is our hero. We love her.”

Related slideshow: Stars we've lost in 2019 (via Photo Services)


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