KENNEWICK -- Almost two years after receiving a new set of lungs, Alicia Foss of Kennewick was back in the University of Washington Medical Center this week.
The 29-year-old Foss, who waited almost four years on the transplant list, has lost the use of most of her right lung, possibly as long as a year ago, said her father, Jim, who drove her to the Seattle hospital Monday night.
Foss said Alicia's recovery from the transplant operation in April 2010 never quite reached the level of success they had hoped for.
But when Alicia's breathing became more difficult a few months ago, he and his wife, Diane, took Alicia to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where they found that two-thirds of Alicia's right lung had collapsed.
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"It was chronic lung failure," Jim Foss said. And there is nothing that can restore it.
"We are just trying to arrest it for now," he said.
Three weeks at Kadlec confirmed Alicia had to go back on bottled oxygen, but even that wasn't enough.
When her breathing worsened, he said staff at UW Medical Center told him to bring her to Seattle.
A scan Tuesday confirmed that there was organ rejection and that Alicia would need several days' megadoses of a steroid to try to invigorate lung function.
"We are hoping this will stop the rejection," he told the Herald on Friday night. The Fosses hope to bring her home to Kennewick today and then must wait for several weeks before the results of extensive testing are known.
"Maybe then we'll have some answers and know what to expect," he said.
Alicia's lung problem started when medication she received as a baby for leukemia had a bad effect. She grew up without noticing the problem, but by the time she was an active teenager, she was running short of breath when she shouldn't have been.
By her early 20s, Alicia was using oxygen regularly and soon became a candidate for a double lung transplant. She got that call in 2010.
Jim Foss, 58, told the Herald after the surgery, they all were hopeful she would finally have the life she had wanted. But she didn't reach the level of "normal" that other transplant patients had, he said.
Still, she was strong enough to move into her own apartment, make a trip to Disneyland and set goals of going to college.
He said this year was hard on Alicia, but it was tough on his and his wife's health, as well.
"I had two stents placed in my heart in recent months," he said. And Diane Foss recently had a heart procedure in Spokane and is being tested for breast cancer.
He said they have had to heavily rely on their Christian faith.
"We've been blessed with such an umbrella of prayers. We've got a great church family (at Community Bible Church)," he said.
"There have been times I've wanted to raise the white flag and just give up. That sick feeling is back in our stomach, and we are tired. But it is not our strength," he said, acknowledging that the family looks to God for what they need.
"Especially this time of year, the best thing you can give your children is love and a hug, and you can't get that at a store," he said.
Diane, who teaches at Kingsport Christian School in Pasco, has to take time off without pay to be at her daughter's side. And Jim Foss, who works for Mission Support Alliance at Hanford, also has run out of vacation. But co-workers have helped by donating their vacation hours for him, he said.
The best the Fosses can hope for with Alicia's irreversible lung failure is to keep it from getting worse, he said.