Jul 24, 2014
By Mary Beth Hartill
Area residents have rallied around a young woman after what may very well be a life-saving surgery.
Erin Cobean, a graduate of Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School, has been living with cystic fibrosis her entire life. She was diagnosed at the age of nine-months and now, at the age of 20, she is facing one of the biggest battles of her young life.
On July 16, the young woman endured a double lung transplant and now all the family can do is wait.
According to her mother Nicole, who spoke with the Examiner on Monday from her daughter’s bedside in the dropdown unit from intensive care at Toronto General Hospital, Erin was initially admitted to Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital on May 6 but her health continued to deteriorate and she was moved into the intensive care unit.
“They couldn’t help her anymore so they moved her to Toronto General,” she said.
While there, Erin signed up to be on the donor transplant list. It was nothing short of a miracle that there was a potential donor the very next day.
This information provided a mixed bag of emotion for the family. Hope, excitement and fear.
“(Erin) was very excited. She had a big smile on her face and then the tears came because she was scared obviously,” she said. “Anybody would be scared.”
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease and both parents have to be carriers of the gene. Both Nicole and her ex-husband were carriers, which meant their children had a one-in-four chance of getting the lung and digestive disease.
Nicole says they knew there might be a day when this surgery would be necessary.
“You like to keep it in the back of your mind. You know the chance might be there but you’re just hoping that it would never happen,” she said. “After her recovery this transplant could be the best thing that could happen to her.”
Nicole says she doesn’t know how long they will have to wait to determine whether the transplant is a success.
“I think that’s an individual call,” she said. “Each person is different.”
The first couple of days after the transplant were good but on Monday, when Nicole was speaking with the Examiner, Erin was not having a good day and was very tired. There was discussion that she may be headed back to the intensive care unit.
Nicole says that it is a major surgery and recovery may take a while.
However, the ordeal is more than an emotional and physical burden for the family. There are also the financial hurdles that come along with having a sick child.
One of the stipulations of the transplant is that Erin will need a support person with her for about three months after she is released from the hospital, which means Nicole is unable to work for at least that time. Then there will be the costs of repeated trips to the city three to five times a week so Erin can participate in an exercise regimen that has to be done at Toronto General Hospital.
Her sister and niece, Laurie and Natasha Lutzman, of Windsor set up an account trust fund at the TD Bank to help with the extra costs that are coming out of the family’s pocket.
Nicole is thankful for the all of the thoughts and prayers that they have been getting from home for Erin and, because of the anonymity of the transplant process, she is thankful for a decision made by a family she will never know.
“Without the donor family this wouldn’t have been possible,” she said.
To help Erin and her family, the trust fund information can be obtained at any TD Bank or located on the Peter de Graaf Real Estate Team’s Facebook page.