Monday, February 06, 2012

Sherri Needs New Lungs

Next month marks 23 years since a landmark day in my family, a time that forever changed me.

My baby nephew received a liver transplant within days of his first birthday. In 1989, infant liver transplants were new. Something like two hospitals in the nation were doing them, and only a few hundred infant liver transplants had even been attempted. Omaha had one of those hospitals. A good number of infants didn't make it.

Michael almost didn't. I remember phone calls across the country to plan a funeral. Tears. My brother and his wife practically living at the hospital. Reports that Michael's bed looked like it was covered in plastic spaghetti because of all the tubes. It was one of the first times in my life I dropped to my knees and sobbed with a desperate prayer. He pulled through.

Then, at nineteen, having defied every odd, Michael was called to serve an LDS mission, and this spring, he graduates from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree and a teaching certificate. (He'll be an awesome teacher, by the way.)

Organ donation hit close to home again several years after Michael's transplant, when my cousin's son needed a new heart. He got the heart. It didn't last as long as Michael's liver has, but it did give him a few more years before he passed away shortly before his high school graduation.

When my son turned fifteen and got his driver's permit, he almost didn't check the box that would make him an organ donor. It was only then that I realized he didn't know all of his cousin's story. I cleared my throat to ward off emotion then simply said, "Check the box. I'll explain when we get home. You are going to be an organ donor."

That same son was only weeks old when I met Sherri. We'd moved into her neighborhood, and I immediately liked her. She coughed a lot, but I was assured she wasn't contagious with anything (which put me at ease when my newborn son was near).

Later, my husband and I taught a Primary class filled with energetic 9-year-olds, including Josh, Sherri's son.

I learned that Sherri was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a disease I'd never heard of. She taught me about it. I learned how CF sufferers eventually die because their lungs get clogged and damaged with mucus. It's the mucus that made her cough. I found out that when she was born, the life expectancy of babies with CF had been about age 14. She wasn't supposed to have lived as long as she already had, let alone give birth and be around to see her son turn 9.

She's fought the odds, worked on keeping herself (and her lungs) as healthy as possible. That means regular hospitalizations, home treatments, medications, and so much more.

Sherri and I were good friends. We went to League of Utah Writers meetings together. We joined the same critique group. She moved. She kept fighting.

Josh is now in his twenties. He's a returned missionary and a college graduate. His mother wasn't supposed to live long enough to see any of that. She did.

But Sherri has now reached the point that her lungs are giving out. On her doctors' advice, she's on a transplant list

In short: Sherri needs new lungs. It's an extraordinarily difficult (and expensive!) decision.

Her family has a site devoted to Sherri's story, where people can donate what they can to help.

If you can donate even a few dollars, please do. Visit Lungs for Sherri, to learn more about CF, about Sherri, and to donate what you can.


Pat W Coffey said...

How can one comment on the ultimate generosity of a person and their family? Sherri has been added to my prayer list. Keep us posted.

Susan Anderson said...

On my way. Right now.


Jessica G. said...

I am a organ donor but I'd never thought I'd be a recipient as well. I know how important it is to check that box AND tell your family your decision. It's not just the vital organs but other tissues that save and rebuild lives.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Our family has similar stories - there's no converter as powerful as personal experience, or of seeing someone you love go through such an experience. Many people go through life never having to think of such things, and you did a beautiful job of sharing these stories in a profound way.

Summer said...

I've never had a personal/family experience with organ donation but I've always known I want to give anything I can whenever I die.

A family friend recently passed away from CF. She was the most, tiny, frail little woman but had such a big heart and kind smile. She was our next door neighbor for a few years and then my YW leader at a crucial time in my life. She was 56 at the time of her passing, much much older than anyone predicted she'd survive.

Sherrie said...

I was just catching up with your blog and noticed this post. It's a good one btw! My friends 9 yr son has CF and is fighting to stay well. He will also need a transplant pretty soon... I hope he gets it before its too late. I am a donor and am doing everything I can to help my friend go through this trying time, just as you are. I will be praying for Sherri. Thanks for sharing the important message of organ donation.


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