CLOVIS — When 29-year-old Alyse Ornelas was rushed to the emergency room with shortness of breath and chest pain, no one could have suspected that the seemingly healthy young woman, at 23 weeks pregnant, was experiencing heart failure.
On Sept. 26, Alyse – a YHS graduate and now a middle school teacher – was admitted to Clovis Community Regional Medical Center. After being unable to determine the cause of her symptoms and with her condition deteriorating, doctors ordered that she be transported by helicopter to Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto immediately. Before leaving Clovis, she sadly lost her unborn baby.
After countless tests, including a heart biopsy, Alyse was diagnosed with a very rare condition known as giant cell myocarditis – a disease that causes the destruction of the heart muscle cells, often requiring a heart transplant. The disorder most often occurs in young adults.
Alyse, as she so often does, impressed every medical professional with her ability to persevere without major complication. After three weeks in the hospital, Alyse was finally able to go home to her daughter and husband, armed with oral medications and an internal cardiac defibrillator. But her challenges were not over.
Alyse graduated from Yosemite High School in 2006. She is now a middle school teacher in Fresno.
Her brothers Eric Stolp and Brad Stolp are also YHS graduates (2002 and 2008), and Eric went on to play minor league baseball for the San Francisco Giants.
Eric now currently lives in Colorado, and drove his wife and two daughters immediately out to be by his sister’s bedside. Brad lives on the Central Coast with his wife Katie, and also rushed to join the family despite the fact that they are expecting their first child any day now.
Her father Bill Stolp is a coach at YHS. He also owns and operates his own business here in Oakhurst, Environmental Site Restoration (ESR). Her mother Becky Stolp works in Yosemite National Park as a front desk clerk at The Big Trees Lodge. She is currently taking a leave from work and is Alyse’s full-time caregiver.
“Alyse Ornelas is a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher and coach,” says friend Nicole Bryant. “All who know her can’t help but be affected by her infectious smile, spontaneity, and love for life.”
Alyse was five months pregnant when she lost her baby, and was happily making plans with her sister-in-law Katie, whose baby was due only two months before her own.
Oakhurst Lutheran Church and Pastor David Sebastian have played a large role in overseeing the transfer of the baby’s body and the funeral home arrangements. At some point her baby boy will be interned in Oakhurst in a private service.
As her family and friends were able to breathe a little sigh of relief in having Alyse back at home, her fight is far from over. Phase one of her treatment has concluded, but phase two includes countless trips back and forth to Palo Alto for appointments and continued monitoring with her Stanford team of physicians.
Alyse is currently a level 2 on the transplant list (the lower the number the closer you are to the top of the list). Her cardiac team reports that she will need a heart transplant at some point, but as to when that will be is entirely unknown.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, Alyse was notified that she needed to pack her bags and return to Stanford because she is now experiencing kidney problems. The family can only wait and stand by her side to see what new challenges they all face.
There was an update posted yesterday that the doctor called with Alyse’s lab results, and her kidney function is now being affected.
“It could mean one of two things – either it is a side effect of her medications, or her heart is worsening. The last thing we want is two organs not functioning. Her doctor is giving her the weekend to see if a change in medication helps.”
Alyse will be headed back to Stanford on Tuesday, and has been told to come prepared to stay because if her heart is worsening, then an LVAD, or Left Ventricular Assist Device, would be installed in her heart to help it pump more efficiently while waiting for a transplant. LVADs typically can help maintain a patient for five years, meaning Alyse would need to receive a heart transplant within that time.
Alyse’s family has set up a donation page at generosity.com, for those who are able to help.
“Although we are not able to aid Alyse in her physical fight towards recovery, we can make an impact financially for her and her family. All funds raised will go towards Alyse’s medical bills, ongoing treatment, travel for appointments, and to help ease the financial burden during her time away from teaching,” says the family on the funding page.
“In lessening the financial burden for the Ornelas family we can allow them to fully concentrate on the healing and recovery that is so needed at this time. The Ornelas family would like to thank everyone for their continued thoughts and prayers.”
You can help by visiting https://www.generosity.com/medical-fundraising/alyse-s-recovery-fund.