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Charity "Sunshine" Tillemann-Dick: Opera singer with transplanted lungs dies


Charity Tillemann-DickCopyright for images
Facebook, thanks to Charity Tillemann-Dick

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Charity Tilleman-Dick performed stage by stage all over the world

Charity "Sunshine" Tillemann-Dick, an honorary US opera singer who survived two lung transplants, died at the age of 35.

In 2004, Tillemann-Dick diagnosed pulmonary hypertension, requiring her to perform two urgent lung transplants necessary for solving her life.

In spite of her illness, Tillemann-Dick continued her prominent career and performed her soprano worldwide.

Her family announced their death on Wednesday on their Facebook page.

"In the morning, the life curtain closed on one of her great heroines," he said.

"Our beloved love has passed peacefully with her husband, mother and brothers and sisters beside her and the sun on her face."

The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Tillemann-Dick lived in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, Yonathan Doron.

She has performed in USA, Europe and Asia. In operas she included Titania in Father's Night Dreams, Gilda in Rigoletto and Violetto in La Traviata.

The singer performed on the stage in theaters all over the world, including the Rose Theater in Lincoln Center in New York, the John F Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and the Art Palace in Budapest.

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Facebook, thanks to Charity Tillemann-Dick

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Tillemann-Dick on vacation in Argentina with her husband

Early life

Tillmann-Dick grew up in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in a Mormon-Jewish family along with her 10 brothers and sisters.

At first, Tillemann-Dick thought she could pursue a career in politics, although she loved singing from early childhood, took care of family trips to symphony and opera.

I would follow her grandfather, Tom Lantos, who spent the Holocaust and served for almost 30 years as a democrat in the House of Representatives, and elder brother Tomice Tillemann, who worked as a speech writer for Hillary Clinton.

"This is somehow our family shop, I think," Tillemann-Dick told the BBC in an interview for BBC World Service in 2013.

After completing her studies and spending time on several political campaigns, she decided to return to music.

"I decided I would not be able to forgive myself if I did not try out music," she told the BBC.

Tillemann-Dick started an intensive training program at the renowned Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary.


At the age of 20, she was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, a rare illness marked by extreme pressure on the heart without obvious cause.

The condition caused Tillemann-Dick's heart to swell three and a half sizes above the normal size.

The diagnosis gave an explanation for her recent fainting and shortness of breath and she had an expected life span of two to five years.

Tillemann-Dick said that one of her doctors told her she should stop singing about her condition.

Hoping to avoid lung transplant, Tillemann-Dick was prescribed Flolan, a liquid drug that was directly into the heart through the tube in the chest.

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Facebook, thanks to Charity Tillemann-Dick

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Tillemann-Dick lived with his husband in Baltimore

The pump, together with the necessary ice packages and ancillary equipment, weighed about 2 kg, said Tillemann-Dick for the BBC.

Tillemann-Dick did not want to draw attention to her condition, as she continued her audition and performances, she said that her medicine would be glued to her thigh.

"Sopranos are sufficiently unpredictable, without a critical illness," she said,

In 2009, five years after the initial diagnosis, Tillemann-Dick first received the first double lung transplant at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Although the transplant was a lifelong lifestyle, Tilleman-Dick said he was very worried about the operation, especially its impact on her voice.

"I survived all my life when I trained my body and lungs and the voice that I worked harmoniously, and I knew I would lose everything," she told the BBC.

Tillman-Dick had put a brutal operation into the coma for more than a month and she could not breathe herself for almost two months.

The next one is eating, walking and talking before Tillemann-Dick finally tried to sing again.

The first song she tried to say was Smile, designed by Nat King Cole.

Career-borne disease

The average lung transplant lasts about five years, and Tillemann-Dick's body began to reject the transplanted organs only a few months after surgery.

When she was waiting for another donor match, doctors told her family that Tillemann-Dick was unlikely to survive.

But when she was waiting, Tillemann-Dick continued to sing.

In 2011, she continued to work without a functioning lung, at the Rose Theater in Lincoln. When he sang, he had a Tilleman-Dick tank with oxygen and a wheelchair waiting on the wings.

"I can barely breathe, but I can still sing," she told the BBC. "It was a miracle."

In January 2012, she completed another double-lung transplant from an American middle-aged woman.

Tillemann-Dick became a good friend of her daughter Esperanza Tufana.

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Facebook, courtesy of Charity Tillemann-Dick

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The original album Tillemann-Dick, American Grace, has become the first in traditional charts on the Billboard

Second law

Tillemann-Dick, who apparently remained unchanged due to her illness, continued her career and singing with new lungs.

After its release in 2014, its debut, American Grace, was ranked first on traditional Billboard charts.

Tillemann-Dick's dedication to music may have coincided with her advocacy work.

She was a national representative of the Association for Pulmonary Hypertension, who worked on awareness, increased federal funding for research, and promoted preventive medicine.

Tillemann-Dick also shared her inspiring story with the US audience, including many TED talks.

"It was so many miracles that paved this most unexpected path," the BBC said.

In 2015 Tillemann-Dick faced another health problem.

She was diagnosed with rare and aggressive skin cancer, which she thought was the result of anti-reflux drugs she took for the lungs.

Treatment required chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, including a special procedure that required the cutting of the nerve on the face that affects muscle movement on the right side of the mouth, reported Washington Post.

"Life is full of death, music full of sadness," Tillemann-Dick wrote in a book in 2017, The Encore: Memoir and Three Act.

"Great artists have always increased both."

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