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Leesburg teen battles transplant rejection

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Victoria Doolittle, 19, from Leesburg struggles with something that most people take for granted -- breathing.

Victoria must struggle every time she takes a breath, due to having a rare lung disease known as primary pulmonary hypertension or PPH.

Pulmonary hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. It essentially requires the right side of the heart to work harder than normal. Presently there is no cure for the disease and in an attempt to control her symptoms, Victoria received a double lung transplant in August 2002 at Shands Transplant Center at the University of Florida.

However, the donated lungs are rejecting her body, a painful condition that sometimes happens to people who have undergone transplants and she is currently awaiting another pair of lungs that could save her life.

Victoria's father, Robert Doolittle, said his daughter's condition has gotten progressively worse.

"It's horrible. When you look at her you can't tell she is sick, but then you notice that she is breathing heavy and coughing," he said. "No parent should have to see the suffering of your child."

Victoria is the only child of Gelene and Robert Doolittle of Leesburg.

Victoria's lung rejection has caused her to to have an increase in peripheral blood eosinophils, a condition that occurs in many inflammatory lung diseases. She has repeatedly received steroid treatments in an attempt to combat the condition.

"The medication and the treatments are extremely expensive and the travel back and forth from Florida wears on us all," said Doolittle's father.

Victoria's parents said they noticed their daughter's condition when she was ten.

"She and my wife were walking at Chehaw and Victoria's lips started turning blue; she wasn't getting enough air," said Doolittle's father.

In February, Victoria was recommended by doctors to go back on a waiting list to receive another set of lungs, a process that may take time.

"They (Shands) could call anytime now or they it could be a while," said Doolittle's father.

Victoria has remained strong in spirit throughout the process of combating PPH, she has been taking classes at Southwest Georgia Technical College to earn her GED.

"She wasn't able to complete high school because of all the days she lost because of her condition," said Doolittle's father. "She wants to eventually work with kids, especially the ones at Shands."

Victoria's family said that the 19-year-old also has an interest in being a pastry chef.

"She's not giving up," said Robert Doolittle of his daughter. "She still tries to do everything a normal teenager does. She sees her boyfriend and goes out when she feels well."

Victoria's family has set up a medical fund to assist with medical costs. Donations should be made out to Victoria Doolittle - Medical Fund and can be sent to P.O. Box 94 Leesburg, Ga 31763.