Life gets turned upside down when you’re hit by a life-threatening disease. Usually, everything else gets put on hold. But a teenage girl who underwent a double lung transplant just to live wanted something else — a diploma.
For Rachel Sweet, graduation day came right on time this spring.
You’re thinking, ‘that’s nice,’ but a lot of young people are getting their diplomas. Not that long ago, Rachel didn’t know how long she’d be alive.
“It was kind of like, you may get sick, everybody’s different from this, so we can’t really tell you what’s going to happen to you,” Rachel said.
Her cystic fibrosis was getting worse and she was getting assignments sent home from school.
“And I’d do it in the hospital, which is kind of hard because when you’re sick, you just don’t feel like doing homework,” she said.
And even worse? Missing out on fun with friends.
“I’d be too sick to really do anything with them, so they would come over,” Rachel said. “I’d lay in bed, we’d talk and then they’d leave.”
The great news: Rachel finally got a double lung transplant last year. The bad: her junior year in school was all but wiped out. But she stuck to her studies with a tutor.
“Rachel, from day one, always had an attitude of I’m going to get through this,” Erin Lowery, MD, Transplant Pulmonologist at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois said.
Her doctor thinks chasing after that diploma literally distracted Rachel from her fragile health.
“You just have to have a goal in mind and you have to stick with it and think about everything you can do to get you there,” Rachel said.
Rachel’s mom, Sue Sweet, learned important lessons too: find a support group and do your own homework!
“The internet is your friend, even though people say ‘don’t go on it,’ you go on it! Learn as much as you can and ask as many questions,” Sue said.
Now, Rachel says ‘the sky is the limit.’ “It’s an accomplishment right here. It tells me what I’ve done and what I’ve earned,” Rachel said. Rachel’s heading to junior college, where she’ll study accounting.