Struggling to breathe

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We've seen them, lines of people stretching outside blood donation centers.

Every drop of blood collected there means another day of breathing for Sandra Cook.

"It's amazing," said Sandra.

"It is slowing down the deterioration of my lungs."

Sandra is suffering from a disease, that left untreated will eventually shut down her lungs and she could die.

But she gets to live another day thanks to plasma donations.

The plasma contains an important protein that helps fight her disease.

"I have a nurse that comes every week and gives me an infusion through a port," said Sandra.

Her constant shortness of breath was diagnosed as Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency in 2008.

"I thought I had just a few months to live actually," said Sandra.

"It was that bad."

Alpha 1 or genetic emphysema is a disorder in which body doesn't produce enough protein.

When the lungs don't have enough of this protein enzymes destroy the lung tissue making it difficult to breathe.

"You've seen that commercial where the elephant sits on that person on the couch, that's the way it is," Sandra added.

Sandra receives about 80 milliliters of plasma per week.

"She will tell me that she feels a little chilled sometimes," said her Registered Nurse Cheryl Stolz.

The only cure for Sandra's condition is a lung transplant.

She's currently on a waiting list at Duke University Medical Center.

"When I get my transplant and need the money they will take care of that as far as how much I've raised or my friends have raised," said Sandra.

"And then if for some reason I pass away or I don't get my transplant it will go to someone else. And that's what I love, that I can help someone else."

Sandra Cook's insurance doesn't cover her lung transplant.

She works with Children's Organ Transplant Association which helps her raise funds for her procedure.

If you would like to donate to Sandra's Second Wind log on