“It was heartbreaking to leave our biggest supporters, but my family kept their faith strong.”

By Jessica Romero

I was born Oct. 26, 1983, at Denver General Hospital, now known as Denver Health, in Colorado. I was born three months prematurely and weighed 1 pound, 7 ounces. The Rocky Mountain News dubbed me the “Miracle Baby of Colorado,” but I had a collapsed left lung and pulmonary hypertension (PH).

I lived at Denver General Hospital until I was 2 years old. In that time, I had many complications, so doctors approached my parents, Eric and Debra Del Toro with a potentially life-changing suggestion. The air in Colorado was too thin because of the mile-high elevation, and the cold weather might affect my health. To give me a shot at a normal life, doctors recommended moving the family to the San Francisco Bay area. I now live in Modesto, California.

Two months later, in September 1986, my parents, older sister, Erica, and I left behind our hometown, friends and family. It was heartbreaking to leave our biggest supporters, but my family kept their faith strong.

I was told I would never see my childhood years, but I defeated that. Over time, I developed the nickname “Bones.” When my weight hit 100 pounds, my family celebrated. I was told that I would never see my teenage years, but I defeated that, too. I was told I would never get to see my adulthood. I’m now 36.

I have been on oxygen my whole life, and I have tanks by my side 24/7. They make life possible but exhausting. I need seven to eight liters a day, depending on my activity. My lung capacity is 17% of normal. My social life is limited because of my health condition and weak immune system. When I get a cold, I often end up in the hospital. I’ve been on the double-lung transplant waiting list since May 2, 2016.

I met Kelly Frederick, an in-home personal trainer, at pulmonary rehab. At one point, I couldn’t get to pulmonary rehab class, so I called Kelly. She offered to come to my home for a 30-minute exercise session. Kelly put together a strategic exercise plan for me. She taught me proper form, sets, repetitions, and breathing exercises while I’m resting between sets. She also encouraged me to exercise on my own twice a week for 30 minutes. Kelly also taught me about better eating habits. I agreed to follow through with my new exercise plan and now have a goal for a stronger me.

My workouts have helped me get stronger, stable and ready for when I receive that call for a transplant.

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