Written by Samantha Rick, lung transplant recipient and one of CKF’s 2018 Bounce Back Award winners. Edited by CC Cunningham, CKF Program Coordinator.
Samantha Rick was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF), a fatal genetic lung disease, when she was just three years old. Sam’s lung capacity slowly deteriorated as she got older and, at the age of 27, she was put on 24/7 supplemental oxygen. By the time she was 30, her lung capacity had dropped to 10% and a double lung transplant was required to save her life. On August 13, 2011, Sam received her new lungs.
For almost five years, there weren’t any major issues. For most of the time post-transplant, Sam’s lung capacity was over 100%. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that she began to feel breathless again. Over the course of four months, she lost 75% of her lung function and 30 pounds as she experienced chronic rejection of her transplanted lungs. After being put back on the transplant list, Sam’s health declined rapidly, forcing her to stay in the hospital until she received another transplant. Sam was constantly going into respiratory distress and was moved to the intensive care unit to be placed on a ventilator and receive more specialized care. She underwent a tracheotomy in order to preserve the small amount of lung function she had left.
On October 11, 2016, Sam received the gift of life in the form of new lungs once again. After a successful 12-hour operation, being bedridden for nearly two months, and relearning how to walk, eat, and breathe, she was finally able to leave the hospital. Since then, her lung capacity is at 92% and she is back at work and doing the things she loves.
After Sam’s first transplant, she became a probation officer, ranking in the top five in her six-week Core training class that is required for all POs in California. She rapidly excelled and advanced in her career, earning certificates for numerous training completions in the criminal justice field. Right before her second transplant, Sam transferred to the Plumas County District Attorney’s Office, where she continues to work as an Alternative Sentencing Case Manager, helping those in the criminal justice system transition back into society.
As a volunteer with her local Cystic Fibrosis Foundation chapter, Sam has met with state representatives, legislators and their staff to educate them about CF and why California’s health programs are important for those living with CF. Sam is a mentor for the Lung Transplant Foundation as well as a peer mentor for the CF Foundation’s peer connect program. She has also written blog posts for the CF Foundation’s website and participates in their outreach programs.
Since her two double lung transplants, Sam maintains a very active lifestyle through mountain and road biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, and dancing. She has entered and won numerous climbing competitions. She is an active member of Rock CF, a nonprofit that educates on cystic fibrosis and helping those living with CF to lead healthy lifestyles. Sam has completed Rock CF’s 5K run twice. She also completed the CF Foundation’s 15-mile Cycle for Life bike ride last summer. This year, she is signed up for a 100-mile road bike ride, called the Breathe Bike Trek, in Petaluma, CA that supports clean air, lung health and smoking cessation programs. Sam is also riding in the Bear Growl Gravel Grinder, a 33-mile mountain bike race in Taylorsville, CA. In addition, she facilitates a weekly climbing night at the local community college in Quincy, CA.
Sam’s resilience and ability to bounce back after not one, but TWO double lung transplants is inspiring to anyone who knows her story. Her love for life shines through in everything she does—it’s clear to see why she is one of our Bounce Back Award recipients this year. We can’t wait to honor her and share her inspirational story at our annual Summit for Life uphill race in December!