Woman waiting to breathe

Lori Schilling, diagnosed more than three years ago with a rare lung disease, is a candidate for a double lung transplant.
YOUNGSTOWN -- What would it be like not to be able to breathe? To be short of breath all the time? Unable to walk without the assistance of an oxygen tank?
For 45-year-old Lori Schilling of Youngstown, this is her reality.
"I can't go up and down the stairs, or cook, because I can't be near the oven with the oxygen," Schilling said.
An X-ray taken by her family doctor revealed a dark spot on the left side of her lung, prompting her to see a specialist. On Jan. 20, 1999, biopsy results indicated that both lungs were infected with a rare lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Schilling also has suffered from epilepsy since the seventh grade, which further complicates matters.
She was examined and tested at the Cleveland Clinic, where she was accepted on its waiting list last Friday to receive a double lung transplant.
Making the list was difficult because she had to remain in good health, despite her epilepsy.
"Whenever lungs become available, they'll give me a call," Schilling said.
Her struggles, however, are not limited to the physical.
Her husband, Gary, 47, has been laid off from CSC in Warren, where he worked as a welder for almost 20 years. He is expected to graduate in 13 months from the New Castle School of Trades, where he is learning heating, ventilating and air conditioning.
Paying the bills is an issue. Gary Schilling acknowledges the bills are "outrageous."
He hopes to land a good job after his training that has benefits. "That's what we're looking for," he said. "We need the benefits."
Gary's parents, Mr. and Mrs. George H. Schilling of Poland, and Lori's mom, Mrs. Georgia Reinman of Boardman, offer a great deal of support.
"If we didn't have our parents, I don't know where we'd be," Lori Schilling said.
She has a brother in Connecticut who she continually updates on her condition, and twin sisters in North Canton, Ohio, and Midlothian, Va. She also gets support from their two dogs, Kristy and Patches, and a cat, Velcro, who she considers her "kids."
Besides her family, Schilling has found comfort from her church. She joined Boardman Christian Church last September and said the members have welcomed her with opened arms.
The church is planning a series of fund-raisers to help pay some of her expenses.
The first is scheduled from 2 to 11 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday. A concession selling coffee and cold drinks will be set up in front of the church, 565 Boardman-Canfield Road.
The hope is that those attending the Super Nationals in nearby Canfield will contribute.
To show gratitude, the couple recently established a name for her church supporters -- "Lori's Angels."
The National Transplant Assistance Fund, a nonprofit organization serving all organ and tissue transplant patients and their families, also is collecting donations.
"Fund raising has helped Lori breathe," her husband said.
Schilling said she is anxiously waiting to hear from the Cleveland Clinic about the status of her much-needed lungs. She has no idea when they will be available or how many patients are waiting like she is.
For now, however, she is just happy to be where she is.
It may be one step, but for Schilling and her family, it is "something to celebrate," she said.

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