The woman, known only as Rachel, was nicknamed "ridiculously photogenic surgery girl" after posting photos from her hospital bed on Reddit.
"I'm currently in the ICU of the Cleveland Clinic," she wrote. "My pain is being reasonably managed, but I cannot fall asleep. Anyone care to entertain me?"
Judging by the response, the answer was yes. The post amassed 612 comments in 11 days, many about her beauty, and spurred the Internet meme, "Lose 60% of her lung ... wins 100% of my heart."
“My family had all gone home. It was a few hours after my surgery. I thought, ‘I really want to talk to someone but it’s late, maybe people will have questions about this,’” Rachel, an Army wife and mother from Dayton, Ohio, told “Good Morning America.” “So I posted… and added in some photos and they kept asking for more photos and it seemed like they really liked them. They wanted more photos from me to verify that I was in the ICU.”
The genetic form of emphysema is caused by a deficiency in alpha-1 antitrypsin, a protein that helps give lungs their elasticity. Rachel said 60 percent of her right lung was damaged.
“I had the surgery on Wednesday, the 16th of May, and now I’m feeling pretty good,” Rachel told “GMA.” “I’m taking a lot of medication. I don’t have my full lung capacity back but hopefully soon I’ll be 100 percent.”
Rachel said though even she was surprised by how she felt - and looked - just hours after major surgery, there was more to the photo that earned her the “ridiculously photogenic surgery girl" nickname than her admirers knew.
“The actual photo that they’re using, they couldn’t see everything that was going on around that photo,” she told “GMA.” “They don’t see the same thing that I see when I look at it. I was very tired. I had a room full of people. I had my entire family, lots of friends. I was on a lot of pain medication.”
While in the hospital, Rachel wrote to her followers that when the painkillers wore off, it was a different picture.
"My incisions and tubes and lungs were on fire. I wanted to scream but moving and making noise made it worse," she wrote. "I can assure you that happy glow isn't there today!"
But the flood of comments like, "Damn, I wish I had looked this good after my surgeries," and "You are beautiful! Good luck with the recovery," gave Rachel the boost she needed to power through the pain.
"I can’t describe it. It was amazing,” Rachel said of the reaction to her posts. “I couldn’t believe so many people were looking at my posts, looking at my photos. People from all around the world, wishing me luck. The get well soons and the speedy recoveries, it was amazing.”