Saturday, February 23, 2008

Transplant recipient recovering well, feeling grateful for another chance

Amelia Wenzel, 26, is recovering nicely following a lung transplant Feb. 13. The former West Beaverton resident is out of the hospital and working hard to regain strength and enjoy life as a new wife. Photo by Sherri Diteman / Sherri Diteman Photography.

From the Beaverton Valley Times in Oregon:
Amelia Wenzel is out of the hospital and on the road to recovery following a second life-saving lung transplant last week.

“I feel great,” the former West Beaverton woman said Monday. “It’s pretty incredible how much better I feel.

“I can breathe again. I can definitely notice the incredible difference with my new lung.”

Amelia was released Sunday afternoon from Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif., after a surgical team completed a successful, three-hour lung transplant Feb. 13 on the 2000 Aloha High School graduate.

To be discharged, she had to be off of oxygen entirely, have any pain she was experiencing under control and be able to manage all of her own medications.

For the next five to eight weeks she will reside in a Mountain View apartment near the hospital with her husband Dan Wenzel as she undergoes intense rehabilitation to get stronger and gain weight.

Amelia will also be required to visit a clinic every week for checkups to ensure no problems develop.

“It’s nice to be out of the hospital and one more step closer to be going home to San Diego with Dan,” Amelia said. “It’s nice to be able to do normal things and not just be stuck in a hospital room.”

As Amelia focuses on her recovery and returning to a full life with her new husband, she takes comfort in the support of her close-knit family, including her mother, Norene Gonsiewski, and mother-in-law, Debbie Wenzel, who both are in California to assist Dan with errands, meals and other tasks.

It’s been an eventful week for both the Wenzel and Gonsiewski family.

It still has “not really” hit yet, Amelia admitted. “It all happened so fast this time and there’s so much to take in.

“It was pretty scary going into the surgery because of all that happened last time.”

Amelia was diagnosed on her 18th birthday on Feb. 2, 2000, with pulmonary hypertension, a rare blood vessel disorder of the lung in which pressure in the pulmonary artery rises above normal levels. Since that time her condition had progressed, making a heart and lung transplant her only hope for survival.

On May 30, 2002, Amelia received a new heart and set of lungs during a nearly seven-hour transplant surgery at Stanford University Medical Center following a three-month wait for a donor match.

She remained in the intensive care unit for a month and slept for three weeks. After strenuous rehabilitation and physical therapy, she returned to her home in August 2002.

Since then, she has enjoyed a second chance at life with the man who stood beside her every step of the way, graduating with honors from Portland State University, moving to San Diego and marrying Dan this past September.

Ten days after her wedding, the newlyweds received the devastating news that Amelia had contracted a respiratory syncytial virus that severely damaged her lungs and that she must have another lung transplant. Read the full story.

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