Now Dowling lives in San Francisco. Her apartment, she says, is just a "hop, skip and a jump" from UCSF, where she returns every six weeks to receive intravenous immune globulin (IVIg) treatment. "I'm hoping that goes away with time," she says. "But I think, at this point, it's 2019, I'm nine years out of transplant, this is kind of par for the course. So it's a small price to pay."
How did you feel when you heard you were experiencing some side effects from the transplant?
There are a lot of factors that drive me to take the best care of myself possible, and one of them, of course, is living a long, full life and honoring my donor. Rejection is one of those things that really terrifies me because it's something that causes transplant recipients to die eventually. So I get a bit of anxiety anytime there's any inkling of that being said or thrown around.
I had a lot of difficulty going into transplant and out of transplant, but I think since my transplant, I've had things go really well. I wasn't excited about [the rejection], but you take things in stride, and here we are, and it's not too much of a big deal. Things happen, and I'm dealing with it.
Has it been difficult to balance living a full life as a young person while still having to plan around your health?
Absolutely. I'm thankful for the gift I've been given, and without my transplant, I wouldn't be here, so I'm really happy to be alive and with my family and friends. But when I first got out of transplant, I was at home with my parents, just trying to get my life back. I had to relearn how to walk, I was in a wheelchair for a long time, so there were some huge hurdles to get over initially. And now at this point, I would say I think I'm used to what my new normal is.
I think that's one of the things that has kind of hit me hard in the last couple years, realizing that I have to work a full-time job and if I don't work full time, I don't get insurance, and all of that is very expensive, and at the same time, you're trying your best just to stay healthy and work out. There's just a lot to balance, and at the same time, you're trying to grow in your career and also do things on your bucket list, because I've been given this second chance at life, [and] I don't want to just live my life doing the grind, you know?
I've gone to the ragged edge, and now I want to travel, I want to do all of these things. But at the same time, the reality of day-to-day life hits you and you're like, "Well, I do have to work because I need health insurance, and I do have to kind of maintain my health as best as possible," and all those things, it's a lot of work. Taking care of my body is a job in itself.
Balancing those – work life, personal life and my health – it's a lot. I'm doing my best to navigate through that, and my best is all I can do. I think I do a pretty good job, but I think it's always something that I'm working on.