My invisible illness does not define me: A story of strength

Diana Donnarumma of Buffalo is a beautiful, smart, and well spoken young woman. She has a passion for fashion and a drive for success. But while she has a smile on her face and a positive attitude about life, you’d never know that the 25-year-old was struggling with a very severe autoimmune disorder.

“I was going to college in Miami and majoring in Spanish marketing and PR when I found out I had been undiagnosed with Lyme disease for 12 years. That turned into a condition called Dysautonomia which causes malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System.”

What that means is that automatic body functions that most of us take for granted do not work for Donnarumma. The muscles in her stomach don’t contract properly to push food down so the only place for it to go is up. She spends several hours a day throwing up which leads to weakness and eventually unconsciousness. She can’t eat real food and she is surviving off artificial nutrition (TPN) to keep her alive. She is in desperate need of both a small and large intestine and she also needs to have half of her stomach removed.

“This is not a day by day thing. This is an hour by hour life,” she said. “My brain might say I’m doing fine, but my body will tell me something else.”

Donnarumma has been on the transplant list for a week and a half. Once she receives a call that the organs are ready she has to immediately jump on a plane with Wings Flights of Hope to fly to New York City where the transplant will take place.

Donnarumma has to be on the table before the organs even arrive to make sure the transplant is a success. Although this has been a extremely stressful time for the past 2 1/2 years, she continues to remain positive.

“I think it’s my faith,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that.”

After all this, all Donnarumma wants is a normal quality of life – to be able to eat a nice meal with friends and have her body function the way it’s supposed to. She hasn’t given up hope and she has become an advocate for “invisible illnesses,” speaking at engagements and creating TPN backpacks. She doesn’t rock a hospital gown 24/7 and still dresses to impress.

“My motto is sick doesn’t mean unfashionable. Many times people look at me and think I look great. That’s because even though I’m sick, I didn’t lose my style, taste, or personality.”

A page has been created to help Donnarumma with medical expenses. If you would like to help this brave woman, visit http://www.helphopelive.org/ and search for Diana Donnarumma or call 800-642-8399.

 

 

 

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