Of love, life and friendship


Irene Torres, KP News

Amanda Messinger, center, jokes with her friends Jessica Skelton, left, and Stephanie Hahn while at St. Anthony Hospital last month. Skelton and Hahn are spearheading fundraising efforts to help Messinger with medical bills. Messinger is battling cystic fibrosis and is hopeful to receive a set of donated lungs soon. Photo by Scott TUrner, KP News

A Key Peninsula woman fights for her life and her best friends step up to help

Last month, Amanda Messinger, 22, sat in the center of her St. Anthony hospital bed surrounded by her dad and best friends Jessica Skelton and Stephanie Hahn.

Amanda has all the support in the world, but what she needs most now is a gift from a complete stranger. A bilateral lung transplant is the only way to save her from the grip of cystic fibrosis (CF) –– a condition that threatens her young life.

Skelton and Hahn say they know what love is, and have put theirs into practice. Their “Pandamanda” fundraising campaign is all about love for their friend.

Because Messinger loves pandas, the two friends used a likeness of the bear when they designed T-shirts and bracelets to sell to help pay for her medications, a caregiver, breathing treatments and hospital travel expenses.

Messinger is no stranger to doctor appointments, especially at the University of Washington, where a lung transplant team is waiting for a matching donor.

In mid-October, doctors at the UW thought they had one. Messinger and her troop of friends and family traveled from her Key Peninsula home only to learn that the donor lungs would not expand. Messinger stayed in the hospital ICU for two days, disappointed, but still hopeful.

Messinger wants her community to understand what CF really is. She said most people are clueless when she explains it to them.

According to her dad, Mitch Messinger, CF is a genetic disease that attacks and scars the lungs. People with CF don’t absorb enzymes or nutrients, and most die of malnutrition, infections or other complications –– sometime before their 20s, he said.

Messinger grew up with her sister, who experienced the same disease and the routine of hospitalizations and medications and she watched her illness progress until her sister died.

During a recent hospital visit with his daughter, Mitch Messinger said he has been through a lifetime of pain, but insists he has hope and strength in his faith. He was told a cure for CF would be widely available in five years. He’s still waiting and fighting by his daughter’s side –– 20 years later.

“She is the strongest, most caring person I know. She deserves a second chance with new lungs.

“I taught my kids to believe in God and life after death. I have to believe there is more to life than this. All you take with you is your love. Life is precious and too short to worry about the small stuff,” Mitch Messinger said.

He said he is grateful for her friends’ awareness and fundraising efforts.

“She’s their angel. I am so proud of her, all that she’s gone through, and what she’s fighting now. Maybe this is the purpose of her life, to reach out to people who can help her and other kids with CF,” he said.

Messinger said her friends are very close to her and understand her condition well.

“The only ‘cure’ they’re offering is a lung transplant, and that’s a 50-50 shot,” said Skelton. “It’s sad that someone would have to die so that someone else could have a second chance at life.”

Skelton said that Messinger just wants to live and experience the world the way everyone else does.

“She has touched the hearts of many. ...I will do everything in my power to keep her here as long as possible,” she said.

Messinger’s friends have set up a few ways the public can help her cause.

Donations can be made in her name at any Kitsap Bank. Shirts and bracelets can be purchased by calling (253) 515-5847 or emailing Jessica_skelton02@yahoo.com.

To learn more about their fundraiser, visit facebook.com/PandamandaTransplantFundraiser.

To learn about cystic fibrosis visit, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Twjg7v-pTO4&feature=youtu.be.