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New heart, lungs for Amanda

Ceres resident eyes marriage while building back her strength

New heart, lungs for Amanda

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POSTED August 27, 2010 11:09 p.m.

Amanda Schulte has a new lease on life thanks to a heart and double-lung transplant she received last month.

Doctors are encouraged at the medical progress of the 25-year-old lifelong Ceres resident who underwent the six-hour transplant operation on July 17 at Stanford Medical Center. While there are real fears of rejection of the new organs, Amanda remains upbeat and ready to resume life.

"I'm definitely ready to make plans to get on with my life," said Amanda during a phone interview last week.

Number one on her agenda is getting her health back. Number two is getting married; she's engaged to her 28-year-old fiancé Jimmy Horn of Ceres. The couple has not set a wedding date, pending the outcome of the surgery.

Doctors say there's a good chance of rejection and other complications. She's popping lots of pills to help reduce the risks.

"I'm a little afraid — actually a lot afraid — that I could come up with rejection. There is an 80 percent chance of rejection in the first three months. Just now I am living day by day. I don't know what tomorrow can bring. There are so many risks."

"I'm feeling good right now," she said, able to breathe better now than she has in seven years.

Schultz is currently staying in a rented house in Menlo Park in order to be close to Stanford in case anything goes wrong. Her parents, Dean and Traci Schulte, owners of Lightsheer Pros in Ceres, have been caring for Amanda since she has been unable to work because of bad heath.

"The doctors are very pleased with my recovery at this point and are pleased at how fast I've bounced back," she said.

Amanda suffers from pulmonary hypertension, a disease of the lungs that progresses over time and left her with difficulty breathing. Her medical plight traces back to birth when doctors discovered a hole in her heart. The hole closed up but when she turned three years of age Amanda developed further problems. Doctors, it turned out, missed a second hole in her heart which was too late to repair. By then Amanda's lungs were already going bad.

When she was 18, Amanda's condition worsened; she would often pass out and at times "couldn't breathe at all." She missed most of her senior year at Denair High School. Doctors installed a tube and pump system to stream Floan into her body 24/7 to keep her condition in check.

"The pump was small enough to carry in my purse but I still had to live a day-to-day life."

Even with medication Amanda could not breathe well and swimming or running was out of the question. Even walking proved laborious.

"Life was just different but I lived my life to the best of my ability. I've been living like this for seven years."

On Nov. 23, Amanda's name was added to the transplant list. A matching donor was available this summer, giving doctors a chance to do their magic. Three days later Amanda was back in surgery for the removal of a hematoma in her new lungs.

"They had to go in and open up my chest again and clear out the clot and clean me out and put it back in."

With her immune system being very poor, she's susceptible to things the average person can fight off.

"There is no such thing as a routine cold for me. Any cold can send me to the hospital. When I go out in public I have to wear a respirator mask, which is to be worn three to six months out."

Amanda is now on a regimen of 35 pills a day and working out to get her strength back. She noted that medication fogs her head and last week she was battling blot clots in her arm and neck.

Now she gets to run on the beach with the family dog.

"I can do two miles on a bike in 15 minutes. I used to not be able to ride a bike. I try to walk a lot."

To pass the time she accepts visitors in the Bay Area and likes to do crafts.

Amanda said the longevity with a transplant is up to each recipient with many going 10 to 20 years.

"It just depends on how your body accepts the organs," said Amanda. "But it's just really fate and what God's plans are for you. God has a plan for everybody."

Another immediate goal is to return home in Ceres, probably in several months.

"I miss home. I miss my room and being in Ceres and being close to friends and family."

The Schultes gush with praise over the way the Ceres community has rallied around Amanda with calls, visits, letters and contributions to her non-profit Help Hand Amanda Heart and Lungs organization that has been taking donations and hosted fundraisers. The community has supported a tri-tip dinner at the Ceres American Legion Hall, auction, a beef raffle, and yard sale.

"Ceres really helped us out a lot," said Amanda. "People came out and really showed their love and support. I just really want to thank the Ceres community for all they've done for us."

As a thank you to Ceres, family friend Donna Carroway arranged for a message to be posted on the message board at Barbour's.

With those funds and money contributed by family in the Bay Area, the family has a fund of $80,000 to tap for expenses. There's lodging costs to cover, transportation costs, and medications not covered by insurance.

"She's doing very well," said dad. "We're working through it. We're very proud of her. She's a very strong person. Every time we look at Amanda we get strong. She's so beautiful. She has a big heart. She started writing to the donor's family because she is so grateful. Hopefully they will respond. Amanda is real interested in getting to know them and is interested in honoring her donor because she knows they are having a hard time."

 

 

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