The beginning of the story from Heathers parents:
John and Janna Rima met at the age of 19, married at 20 and began making a beautiful family soon after. Heather was born June 4, 1984 and Justin followed close behind born October 18,1985.
2003 started out to be just another great year of a near perfect life for the Rima family. Heather was now a high school graduate and once again Justin was close behind preparing to graduate a year early due to an aggressive home school program. Justin had already chosen a career track in film, writing and art(jmichaelarts.com). He had already written, filmed and starred in a gripping short film shown in the Seattle International Film Festival and on KING 5′s Evening Magazine.
July 2003 after going on a missions trip to Mexico with his church, Justin felt as though he had asthma. We quickly made an appointment and began some treatment for the condition. After a couple months he realized this was not taking care of his breathing problem so he began some new testing to get a better diagnosis. In early October, just before his 18th birthday, Justin was able to see a Pulmonary Specialist that did some preliminary testing and set an appointment for a Pulmonary Function Test. It is at this appointment they discovered that with even the slightest of activity (standing & walking), the oxygen levels in Justin’s blood would drop rapidly. The doctor said that he may have an issue with his heart and admitted him to the hospital for additional testing. At 78 to 84 percent blood/oxygen levels, the doctor said it is like living with a plastic bag over your head.
In the hospital, Justin was immediately set up on oxygen and scheduled for a Right Heart Cath Test. This test came back with abnormal results. The hospital he was at, made the decision to hand the case off to the University of Washington Medical Center. UW is known to have a world class heart and lung program. Justin was immediately scheduled for CT Scan which pictured his right heart at twice it’s normal size…but this was just a symptom of something far worse. These pictures also displayed a pair of lungs with severe scarring and lesions. The next test was one of the worst, a Lung Biopsy. At that time it was something unlike anything they had seen before. Instead of the soft tissue you would find in normal lungs, these were like leather. They tried to treat it as best they could with steroids and other meds but his health continued to decline.
In early December Justin’s condition became so severe that he was qualified and placed on the Lung Transplant list. In the next two weeks he underwent heart surgery to attempt to relieve the building pulmonary pressure. Late December we received the call… our miracle…NEW LUNGS. Justin had spent approximately 5-7 days on a Bi-Pap forced breathing machine with a heart rate jumping from 145-160 and oxygen levels in the 80 percent range. This is like running a marathon for a week with a plastic bag over your head. He had become so weakened and tired that he suffered Cardiac Arrest before reaching the operating room. After emergency bypass surgery they were able to stabilize him and prepare for the transplant. The 12 hour surgery was a success but came with a terrible disclaimer. Due to the Cardiac Arrest, Justin had been without blood or oxygen to his brain for too long. He passed away on New Year’s Eve 2003
Fast forward 8 years later….mid 2011. Heather…now married to the love of her life (Josh Phillips), had produced the most beautiful grandchild and was pregnant with the second. In approximately the sixth month of her pregnancy, Heather began to experience some trouble breathing. Josh took her to the ER to see if she was having difficulty with her pregnancy only to find her blood/oxygen levels were very low. Heather spent the better part of the next 3 months in the hospital on bed rest. Everyone was hoping and praying it was all pregnancy related.
September 7, 2011, nearly 3 weeks early, Heather gave birth to a very healthy baby girl. After a couple weeks of recovery from the birth we were all hoping things would get back to normal…not to be so. After several X-Rays and CT Scans the news just got worse, she needed to have a Lung Biopsy. The outcome was somewhat inconclusive but all too familiar. Even the attempts at treatment seemed like re-living a nightmare for the entire family. Exhausting the knowledge, resources and expertise of her Pulmonary Specialist, Heather was recommended to a “World Renown” physician, once again, at the UW Medical Center. Upon reviewing all of Heathers testing the diagnosis was in.
In mid March 2012 Heather was diagnosed with “Constrictive Bronchiolitis”, the very disease that took her brother 8 years ago. Today Heather has started the process to qualify for the Lung Transplant List. The testing is brutal and her reality is unimaginable. She is staring down a situation with full knowledge and experience of what the possible outcome could be. The cost of this procedure is pushing towards 1 million dollars with an annual maintenance cost of $ 30,000.00. Although Josh has a great job with medical benefits, the out of pocket cost is staggering. Living in a house John and Janna had to walk away from and the bank could take back at any time, the future is not so clear.
Please keep Heather in your thoughts and prayers as well as the entire Rima & Phillips family. Help or donations of any kind will be much appreciated.