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Diana Young: Veteran Awaiting an Intestinal Transplant

Diana Young

The Challenge

Diana, originally from the South Side of Chicago, began her professional career as a combat medic in the United States Army. She served for 27 years before retiring in 2007 and spent most of her time in an office management position following her medic career.

During her time in the Army, Diana was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in her early twenties and did everything she could to help combat her disease.

“It all started when I was having a lot of pain in my stomach and going to the bathroom very often,” she said.

The Path to UPMC

Diana began her treatments in Washington D.C. but was referred to UPMC once she learned she may require an intestinal transplant. Upon her arrival in Pittsburgh, doctors diagnosed Diana with short bowel syndrome, a condition that resulted from the inability to absorb nutrients from food due to having a short intestine from prior surgeries.

“It was hard at first to switch care locations because you get so comfortable with the people and where you are,” said Diana. “But I quickly became familiar with UPMC and really grew to like the team.”

Diana is currently on the intestinal transplant waiting list. Because she is a retired veteran, Diana is waiting to receive a small bowel transplant through UPMC’s partnership with the VA Pittsburgh Health Services (VAPHS).

Last year, the UPMC and VAPHS partnership was extended to offer gastrointestinal rehabilitation services and small bowel transplants to veterans in the region.

“It’s been an awesome and easy transition for us,” said Diana. “I’ve been very fortunate to have such great teams with UPMC and the VA.”

To help Diana in her day-to-day routine, she has an ileostomy pouch that allows waste to leave the body through a new opening called a stoma, a surgically created opening in the abdomen. An ileostomy is where your doctor attaches the end of the small intestine to the stoma.

“When I first got my ileostomy pouch, I was scared and didn’t know how I was going to adjust,” said Diana. “Now, I’ve become such a pro at it, I could do everything in the dark.”

What’s To Come

Diana currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Paul, and dog, Snowball, as they are her main support systems.

“I don’t know what I would do without Snowball; he’s been amazing for me and doesn’t leave my side,” said Diana. “Having both of them brings me so much joy.”

Diana has nothing but hope each day that she will get a phone call from her transplant coordinator saying a compatible organ is available for her.

“Being on the list brings me hope that it’s going to happen,” said Diana. “We just hope and pray every day, and you cannot lose that hope.”

Diana, Paul, and Snowball have plans to return to their former residence in Concord, N.H., after her transplant with aspirations of traveling to Mississippi in the winter months to avoid the cold weather.

“There’s no rhyme or reason as to why we chose Mississippi; we just want to see what it’s like down there,” said Diana. “We have our motor home and plan to travel as much as we can and begin the healing process after my transplant.”

Note: Diana’s treatment and results may not be representative of other cases.