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Local 17-year-old awaits lifesaving double lung transplant

DEER LAKE, Wash. - You never expect to face something like a life-threatening medical condition, not when you're 17. 

At 17, you haven't had enough of the good to be ready for the bad. 

When she was just a freshman in high school, doctors diagnosed Leah Russell with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. 

Now, she's a senior and there's no telling how much longer her lungs can withstand the high blood pressure. Her heart is working overtime, too. It has to pump blood through obstructed arteries.

“I really just didn't realize how serious it was,” Leah said.  

Doctors don't know what caused the issue, but they do know she needs two new lungs. Her father, Rick Russell said it's a matter of life and death. 

“Without it, we anticipate that she has maybe a year left to live,” Rick said. 

One year. 

That's all the time this Deer Lake family could have left together. 

In the midst of all the very bad news came some good news last month. Leah's name is now on a transplant list. 

They could get the call at any time to rush to Seattle for her surgery.

“She has just a tremendous attitude about it that this is her opportunity to have quality of life,” Rick said. 

She's overcome complications already, that put her in the ICU for weeks. She's hoping she can hold out long enough for the life-saving surgery. 

It comes at a cost though. Her dad said insurance won't cover the cost of the life flight there and her family will have to live in Seattle for three months while she recovers. 

They'll face hundreds and thousands of dollars of debt by the time this is over. 

But, Leah knows those new lungs will be a gift and her chance for a new life. 

“I love hiking and camping and all of that and I just, I miss it,” Leah said. 

Bad things came so suddenly for Leah. Her family hopes that good things come that same way.

“I'm nervous, definitely, but I'm more excited about the transplant. It's just gonna be such a big change in life,” Leah said.

Her family has an online fundraiser going on now. You can find more details here


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