Clovis woman with double-lung transplant conquers Yosemite's Half Dome

The Fresno BeeJuly 7, 2014 

Amanda Moretto -- the Clovis woman who had a double-lung transplant last summer -- reached her goal by climbing to the top of Half Dome on Sunday.

When she reached the broad crown at 8,836-feet elevation, she soaked in the beauty and the air.

"It was gorgeous," Moretto said Monday. "It was something you're not going to ever forget. You don't see that every day. I was most worried about the elevation. But it was never that I felt less oxygen. I felt, 'These lungs are working great.' "

The 17-mile round trip took 14 hours, finishing just at night fall. Moretto, 25, hiked with family to celebrate her remarkable recovery from the double-lung transplant in August.

She was born in 1989 with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that mainly affects the lungs and digestive tract. At the time, life expectancy was 16 years. The gene that causes the disease has since been discovered and life expectancy has grown to 40.

She followed a rigorous daily regimen of breathing techniques and medications that worked to slow the progression of the disease. Until two years ago, her oxygen level was about 50% of capacity. But in April 2013, her lungs took a turn for the worse. They dropped to 28% capacity.

Doctors put her on oxygen, and when she began to lose strength, they put her on the transplant list.

Surgeons at Stanford University Medical Center performed the double-lung transplant Aug. 4. Rehabilitation is four months. But Moretto showed remarkable recovery and doctors cleared her after two months to return home, where she started gym workouts.

Feeling a new lease on life, she trained to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park with her father, Roger Bergman, who has hiked to the summit 20 times. Other family joined in the training.

On Sunday, the hike started at 6:30 a.m. Blue skies emerged as well as cloud cover at just the right time.

"It was a perfect day," Moretto said.

But it got tougher.

Some points on the John Muir Trail were so grueling that Moretto prayed: "It was like, 'God, give me strength to keep going.' "

The hardest part was the climb of steel cables, which are bolted into the granite to assist hikers the final 400 vertical feet.

"I had a panic, where I thought, 'I can't pull myself up,' " she said. "It's really steep. Just these little cables, with drop-offs on both sides."

But she got through it.

Some family and friends got ahead. All wore "Amanda's Journey" navy T-shirts that caught the attention of other hikers. They asked, "Who's Amanda? What's her journey?" So they shared her story. When Moretto reached the top, people applauded.

Moretto said it "meant a lot" to hike with those who love her.

"This whole thing was about Amanda making it to the top," said Bergman, who became nauseous and light-headed near the top and turned back. "I'm just tickled by the whole experience. It was tough. It was challenging. It came true. She made it it to the top. Such an accomplishment for her."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304, rorozco@fresnobee.com or @ronorozco_bee on Twitter.

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