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Remembering an Opera Singer Who Still Hit the High Notes After Two Double-Lung Transplants

Charity Tillemann-Dick

Editor's Note:  Soprano Charity Tillemann-Dick, a singer whose voice reached new heights after two double-lung transplants at the Cleveland Clinic, passed away this week at the age of 35. Tillemann-Dick is survived by her loved ones and her talent is celebrated by the countless ears that were lucky enough to hear her sing.

She spoke with WKSU’s Mark Arehart in Oct. 2017 about her journey, her involvement at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit and her book, "The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts."

(originally published October 24, 2017)
The Cleveland Clinic is holding its annual Medical Innovation Summit this week. One speaker who took the stage is soprano Charity Tillemann-Dick. She received two double-lung transplants at the Clinic and has gone on to perform across the United States, Europe and Asia.

"What's next?" That's what went through Tillemann-Dick's mind after she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. 

"What does this mean for my career, for my family, for my voice? It's a big question that we all should actually ask most days of the week." 

An initial double-lung transplant in 2009 gave Tillemann-Dick a short window to perform and raise awareness for pulmonary hypertension until a second transplant was needed in 2011. Though her body had began to reject the transplanted organs, she said she did not lose hope. 

"Since I had done it once, I was confident I would be able to sing again." 

Through both her surgeries at the Cleveland Clinic, the Washington D.C. resident and her family spent a lot of time in the city. 

Tillemann-Dick said it was an emotional experience taking the stage for the 2017 Medical Innovation Summit. 

"It was wonderful to be surrounded and to share with so many people who have directly or indirectly been involved with my life." 

Her memoir "The Encore: A Memoir in Three Acts," was released earlier this month. 

Mark Arehart joined the award-winning WKSU news team as its arts/culture reporter in 2017. Before coming to Northeast Ohio, Arehart hosted Morning Edition and covered the arts scene for Delaware Public Media. He previously worked for KNKX in Seattle, Kansas Public Radio, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska.