Stenzel Byrnes, Isabel 1972-

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Stenzel Byrnes, Isabel 1972-


Born 1972, in Los Angeles, CA; married; husband's name Andrew. Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1994; University of California, Berkeley, M.A.


Home—Redwood City, CA. E-mail—[email protected].


Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford, CA, health educator and social worker. Chair, with sister Anabel Stenzel, of Genentech's Heroes of Hope Living with Cystic Fibrosis Program.


Breathing Room (board member).


(With twin sister, Anabel Stenzel) The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2007.


The odds that Isabel Stenzel Byrnes and her identical twin sister, Anabel Stenzel, would be born with cystic fibrosis were, according to their father's estimate, about one in 1.8 billion. As it happened, the girls did have the rare condition, which is caused by a defective gene that regulates cells' salt concentrations. Cystic fibrosis causes a buildup of viscous mucous in the body's airways and digestive tract, leading to chronic lung infections, reduced lung capacity, sinusitis, digestive problems, and diabetes; few cystic fibrosis patients survive into adulthood. Yet Stenzel Byrnes and her sister benefited from new medical treatments and, as young adults, underwent double-lung transplants. Their story of living with this disease, and beyond it, is told in the book they authored, The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis.

The book details the authors' exhausting treatment regimens throughout childhood, their bouts in the hospital with horrible infections, and their efforts to enjoy the kinds of activities that healthy children could take for granted. The sisters describe their years rooming together as Stanford undergraduates and, later, as graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as Isabel's marriage and the rapid deterioration of their condition, which resulted in lung transplants, first for Ana and three and a half years later for Isabel. Both sisters have earned master's degrees, traveled, established professional careers, and enjoyed rigorous physical activities such as hiking, swimming, and running.

Kim Vo, writing in the Palo Alto Daily News, noted that "both sisters talk comfortably about living and dying." According to Vo, "Their book touches on all that—along with growing up with Japanese and German parents, the rigors of a chronic illness, and the gratitude and guilt that washed over them after meeting the families of their organ donors." The sisters joked with Vo about their "co-dependency." As Vo pointed out, "The book demanded a lot of together time. After rereading a lifetime of journals—the longing to fit in at school, that nurse that [angered] Anabel, all that teenage angst—they wrote the book." When it was completed, they were forced to find their own publisher, because their agent gave up on the project.

Writing on the Mindfood Web log, Lisa Baertlein observed that while the sisters' story is "about nurturing hope in the face of impossible odds, the book is also an honest account of the upheaval that serious illness inflicts on even the most devoted and well-intentioned families." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews also praised the "raw honesty" with which the authors depict not only their health problems but also the "tender emotions of their interdependence and vital bonding with their family."



Stenzel Byrnes, Isabel, and Anabel Stenzel, The Power of Two: A Twin Triumph over Cystic Fibrosis, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2007.


Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007, review of The Power of Two.

Palo Alto Daily News, January 1, 2008, Kim Vo, "Twins with Cystic Fibrosis Reflect on Lives," review of The Power of Two.

Stanford News Service, August 4, 2004, "Sisters Breathe in the Good Life after Both Receiving Double-Lung Transplants," author profile.

USA Today, June 13, 2006, Marilyn Elias, "Organ Transplantation: Lifesaving, and Life-Testing," author profile.


Mindfood Web log, (August 5, 2008), Lisa Baertlein, review of The Power of Two.

Stenzel Twins Home page, (August 5, 2008).