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These days, Candace Joshnick lives tethered to an oxygen tank and a machine that keeps her lungs inflated.
Since January, the former Citrus County school teacher has been living at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., waiting for a life-saving double lung transplant.
Just 28, Joshnick has LAM lung disease, a rare progressive disease that mainly affects women of childbearing age. She was diagnosed in 2008 after emergency kidney surgery. A subsequent CAT scan showed “something strange” with her lungs, leading to the diagnosis.
“I did a lot of research on the Internet and did not find any comforting news,” Joshnick wrote on her Breath of Hope for Candace Web page (www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/ztw1/abreathofhopeforcandace)
Even so, the upbeat, determined young woman continued on with her life, learning to adjust to living with an oxygen tank, going everywhere with it — out with friends, on dates, even to France.
“I was teaching first grade at Central Ridge (Elementary), and I told the first-graders that I was a mermaid and couldn’t live outside the water,” she said in a telephone interview from her hospital room at Duke.
She got married this past December to Nick Estell, an investment banker from Orlando, and the two of them moved to the hospital in North Carolina where Joshnick waits and prepares for a transplant and Estell works from a laptop.
“That way he can work and I can talk to him and he can help me if I need anything,” Joshnick said.
Each day she exercises with oxygen and a physical trainer, getting her body strong for a transplant. She reads, plays video games, writes.
“I have to live here at the hospital because, with my situation I could, at any time, have a serious (lung) collapse and go into respiratory failure,” she said. “So, I have a machine stuck to the side of my chest and into my lungs that’s artificially holding my lung up. In order to keep this machine working I have to be on a cord that’s connected to a wall at the hospital. So, I’m here until I get ‘the call.’”
After her transplant she will remain at Duke for two months recovering, returning at regular intervals or whenever she gets sick for the rest of her life. She and Estell plan to return to Orlando as soon as they can.
“Next year when I’m better and this is behind us, we’re going to have a celebration-of-life party,” she said. “That way I can dance with my husband, something I didn’t get to do when we got married.”
She said the song she’s chosen for Nick is “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Her song is Celine Dion’s “A New Day,” a song about waiting for a miracle, the song that she said plays in her head all the time, giving her hope.
“When she was at our school, she was a wonderful, talented, fabulous young teacher,” said Nancy Simon, principal at Central Ridge. “She was a natural and a real asset to our school.”
Joshnick said even though she no longer lives in Citrus County, she wants people here to know how she’s doing.
“Even more, I want people to know how important organ donation is,” she said. “In order for me to live someone has to pass, and in their passing they have to leave the rights of their organs to sick people like me who can live longer with their donation.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* To read more of Candace Joshnick’s story or to contribute to help cover her medical costs, go to www.Facebook.com/ABreathOfHopeForCandace or www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/ztw1/abreathofhopeforcandace.
* For information about being an organ donor, go to www.donatelifeflorida.org.