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Danielle Mandela, a Comedy Writer With CF, Received a Living Lung Transplant From Her Parents
Danielle Mandella is a 30-year-old comedy writer living in California. She was diagnosed with cystic brosis (CF) when she was three months old.
YOU WERE THE RECIPIENT OF A LIVING LUNG TRANSPLANT AND RECEIVED ONE LUNG FROM EACH OF YOUR PARENTS. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE?
My lungs didn’t really cause me any problems until I was about 10 years old. I played basketball, was a Girl Scout, and was very, very active. But in junior high, I got a really bad flu that knocked me out for a while, and after that my lungs really began to decline.
The summer after junior year, my lung function just tanked. My health declined so quickly that I did not even have time to get on the lung transplant list. But at the time, a living lung transplant was an option. My doctor stayed up all night pulling together my medical history, and I was life-flighted down to the hospital where I’d receive my transplant. They began evaluating potential donors, and within two weeks they had chosen my parents.
The entire experience was a crazy whirlwind, but it worked. It took probably a good five years to look back and think, wow, look what we did.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE FACED LIVING WITH CF?
For me, it’s constantly comparing myself to so-called normal, healthy people. Because I have energy now, and I feel better, my brain naturally wants to react to things like a healthy person. But I still have to be vigilant. I have to avoid crowds, anyone who is sick, and anyone who might have been near someone who was sick.
“There’s no reason not to have all the hope in the world.”
– Danielle Mandela
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CF COMMUNITY TO SOMEONE NOT FAMILIAR WITH CF?
Very, very ambitious and driven, and to a degree, you can’t understand until you meet us. We don’t do it on purpose. But we are operating on a different timeline from everyone else, because we don’t know how long we’ll have to accomplish our dreams. That unpredictability makes us work at a much faster pace.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PEOPLE WITH CF?
My friends and I call ourselves the “pioneers of CF.” We feel like we’re are among the first generation to grow into adulthood. If I could offer something to younger people with CF, I would tell them – you have no idea how much might change during your lifetime. When I was born, my parents were told my life expectancy was 13 years. There’s no reason not to have all the hope in the world.
WHO IN YOUR LIFE IS “ALL IN” FOR YOU?
My brother, Bryan. He is one year older than me and took care of me when our parents and I were all hospitalized for the lung transplant. He looks out for me. When we went rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, my friends pointed out that he was underneath me the whole time, making sure I didn’t fall. He’s always been there, and he can kind of read my mind. I’m very independent, but he always knows when I need something, even if I don’t say it out loud.