Lititz native receives life-saving transplant

By on February 27, 2013

By: MELISSA HUNNEFIELD Record Express Staff, Staff Writer



Lynne and Robb Korlewitz celebrated their anniversary last year by going sky diving.

Lynne Korlewitz of Crofton, Md. received a new lease on life in November. The Lititz native, who has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis her entire life, was the recipient of a double lung transplant.

Cystic fibrosis, or CF, is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States. Because of a defective gene, the body produces thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections.

There is no known cure.

Lynne credits her parents, Richard and Marilyn Heisey, with starting her off on the road to better health.

"I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 7 months old," Lynne said. "As a child, I was lucky to have the support of my parents, who kept me on a strict regimen of medicines and treatment — they weren’t an option, they were ‘normal’ to me."

Lynne’s sister, Anne Brubaker, recalls when Lynne was diagnosed in 1973.

"My parents were told her life expectancy would be about 8 to 10 years," Anne said. "At the age of 14, Lynne developed diabetes. Due to the diligent and daily care my mother gave her when she was younger, I am thankful to say that my sister just turned 37."

Despite a few setbacks from CF requiring yearly hospitalized antibiotic "clean outs," Lynne eventually enrolled at Lebanon Valley College.

"I was able to get assistance with my physical therapy, which allowed me to live on campus," Lynne said. "I began running and joined the track and field team as a distance runner. After graduating, I started working in Philadelphia and had various surgeries for sinuses, tonsils and other minor things, but maintained an active lifestyle. I exercised daily and participated in various sports in the Manayunk Sport and Social League."

Lynne married her husband Robb in 2005 and the couple relocated to Maryland. There, she was inspired to take on greater challenges.

"I got certified to teach Spinning and Body Pump classes," Lynne said. "I taught three classes a week, which greatly improved my endurance and lung capacity."

Despite staying active and maintaining a very positive attitude, things eventually took a turn for the worse.

"I had minor setbacks with the removal of a collapsed lung, but still remained active until March 2011, when I was forced to face the reality of cystic fibrosis," Lynne said. "I had a long bout with pneumonia, which led to respiratory failure. I was transferred to the medical intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins and was incubated. I lived on a respirator until I could breathe on my own."

Lynne was sent home after a month-long hospital stay, but still dependent on IV antibiotics. Things never truly improved, however.

"After that, I had recurring hospital stays from pneumonia and was never able to achieve the same level of physical activity as before," Lynne reported. "My lungs began to decline, and in October 2012, my doctors suggested I start the evaluation process for a double lung transplant."

Being hospitalized repeatedly forced Lynne to stop working, and she was placed on oxygen 24/7.

"My second chance at life came on Nov. 29, 2012, when I received a life-saving double lung transplant by the doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital," Lynne said. "I can’t thank my donor and their family enough for giving me this second chance at life!"

Being able to breathe easier physically has caused quite a financial strain on Lynne and her family.

With the cost of a transplant often exceeding $500,000, many transplant families are unable to shoulder the financial burden of such a procedure.

Lynne’s family has asked for assistance from the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA). The organization’s priority is to assure that no child or young adult is denied a transplant or excluded from a transplant waiting list due to lack of funds. One hundred percent of all funds raised are used for patients’ transplant-related expenses.

An estimated $80,000 is being raised by a team of friends and family volunteers from Lancaster, Philadelphia, Charlotte, N.C. and Crofton.

More volunteers are needed to assist with fundraising activities that will help with transplant-related expenses. Individuals and groups interested in more information can contact Community Coordinator Anne Heisey Brubaker at 610-745-1798 or anne.brubaker@yahoo.com.

Donations may be mailed to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 West COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN, 47403. Checks or money orders should be made payable to COTA, with "In Honor of Lynne K" written on the memo line of the check. Secure credit card donations are also accepted online at COTAforLynneK.com.

Anne Brubaker summed up her sister’s amazing attitude through her ordeal.

"My sister’s life defines determination and strength. She has never allowed her disease to keep her from living life to the fullest," Anne said. "Lynne is the epitome of being a survivor and not a victim — the type of person people love being around because of her positive outlook. This past year, to celebrate her anniversary, she and her husband went sky diving.

Learn more about cystic fibrosis and its treatments by visiting cff.org. More TRANSPLANT, page A15

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