Double-lung transplant survivor completes Half Dome hike

The Fresno BeeJuly 8, 2014 

Amanda Moretto at the top of Half Dome on Sunday with her husband, Matthew Moretto.

PHILLIP BERGMAN — Special to The Bee

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, with Moretto finishing at nightfall. The 25-year-old hiked with family to celebrate her remarkable recovery from the transplant in August.

She was born in 1989 with cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease that affects mainly 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 risen 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 percent of capacity. But in April 2013, her lungs took a turn for the worse. Capacity dropped to 28 percent.

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‘s recovery was remarkable, and doctors cleared her after two months to return home, where she started gym workouts.

She trained to hike Half Dome 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. A blue sky emerged and cloud cover came at just the right time.

“It was a perfect day,” Moretto said.

But it got tough.

Some points on the John Muir Trail were so grueling that Moretto prayed: “God, give me strength to keep going.”

The hardest part, she said, was the climb of steel cables, which are bolted into the granite to assist hikers on 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.”

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service