Every morning Diana Donnarumma of Buffalo wakes up and makes an effort — make-up, a nice outfit and a positive attitude to match. You’d never know that the 25-year-old was struggling with a severe autoimmune disorder.
"I was going to college in Miami and majoring in Spanish and marketing/PR when I found out I had been undiagnosed with Lyme disease for 12 years. That turned into a condition called Dysautonomia which causes malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System," she said.
What that means is that automatic body functions that most of us take for granted do not work for Donnarumma. The muscles in her stomach don’t contract properly to push food down, so the only place for it to go is up. She spends several hours a day throwing up which leads to weakness and eventually unconsciousness. She can’t eat real food and she is surviving off artificial nutrition (TPN) to keep her alive. She is in desperate need of both a small and large intestine and she also needs to have half of her stomach removed.
"This is not a day-by-day thing. This is an hour-by-hour life," she said. "My brain might say I’m doing fine, but my body will tell me something else."
Donnarumma is currently on the transplant list. Once she receives a call that the organs are ready, she has to immediately jump on a plane with Wings Flights of Hope. Although it’s been an extremely stressful time for her, she continues to remain positive.
"I think it’s my faith," she said. "I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that."
Donnarumma has also become an advocate for "invisible illnesses," speaking at engagements and creating TPN backpacks. She says hospital gowns aren’t her thing, so she strives to look her best, even if she doesn’t always feel her best.
If you would like to make a donation to help Donnarumma with medical expenses, visit Helphopelive.org and search for Diana Donnarumma, or call 800-642-8399.
Editor’s note: At press time, Donnarumma had just received a transplant at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Both a small intestine and the right side of the colon were donated by a 20-year-old woman who lost her life. While this is an incredible gift to Donnarumma, she asks for prayers for the family who lost their loved one.
Story topics: BufFYI