“I realize how lucky I am, knowing that my life has been saved twice,” said Ally. “I’m feeling great and I can breathe better than I ever have. I’m really excited to have my life back.”
Ally returned to her Oakley home from UCSF Medical Center this week, just eight days after undergoing her second double lung transplant. According to her mother, Vickee, the difference in Ally’s recovery from the first transplant to the second is like night and day.
“We’re just amazed at how different this (transplant) was from last time,” said Vickee. “Last year when she woke up from her transplant, she could walk maybe six steps with a nurse on each side holding her up. But this time she pushed herself off the bed with no one helping her and did four laps around the (hospital) floor. She’s doing really great.”
Ally’s journey began in July of 2009, when the Freedom High School freshman was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, an incurable disease that hinders the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs. A double lung transplant was the only remedy.
In August of that year, a donor was found and Ally received her transplant, but it was rough going from the start. “When she came home in November it was just one thing after another,” said Vickee. “She had pneumonia four times and developed a rare bacteria in her lungs that took nearly a year to treat, and she had lots of aspiration (breathing) issues. All the promises of going back to a normal life just never happened.”
In April, Ally went into chronic rejection and was immediately placed on 24-hour oxygen. When she was finally admitted to the hospital in July she was told she would remain there until a donor was found.
Throughout her months of waiting for a second donor, Ally has continued to be supported by her friends, family and a community that has not forgotten. “The community, everyone, has really rallied around Ally, and it’s something that has never stopped,” said Vickee. “We are so grateful for the support. It’s really kept us going.”
And now that she’s home, Ally intends to get herself going as soon as possible. And the first order of business?
“My boyfriend and I are going to go for a drive,” said Ally. “We’ve talked about it for months and because I’ve been hooked up to an oxygen tank since April, I couldn’t really go anywhere. Every time I would talk to him and say ‘get me out of here,’ he would remind me to stay strong and think of the drive we’re going to take when I’m without the oxygen and have no worries. That day is finally here.”
As for the days to follow, the Jenkins family is taking a one-step-at-a-time approach to Ally’s recovery. And yet the difference in Ally is remarkable. “We’re amazed at her strength and the progress she’s made,” said Vickee. “I’m at peace with it all; it’s such a different mind set from last time. We’ve met a lot of people who’ve had to be re-transplanted who are now swimming with the dolphins and running marathons. It just goes to show you that this is reality; not just wishful thinking.”
Ally plans to go back to school in January, and hopes to attend homecoming at Freedom High in October. And despite her understandable focus on fun, the grateful teen knows her shot at a second chance has changed her forever.
“My faith has grown stronger than ever and I know that I’m meant to do something special with my life, I just don’t know what it is yet,” said Ally. “But I’ve learned a lot. I’ve definitely learned not to sweat the small stuff and I’ve realized how important it is to surround yourself with positive people and let the negative ones go, be thankful for every breath and always tell the people in your life how much you love them.”