Katherine Ward, CTV Barrie
Published Tuesday, October 29, 2013 7:11PM EDT
For the first time in a long time, a Barrie teenager is making plans for the future.
Just weeks after a double lung transplant, Sarah-Lyn Copeland is making a list of all the things she wants to do. She’s starting by breathing easier.
“Someone opened the door and let all the air in,” she says. “It’s like I can actually breathe.”
Sarah-Lyn Copeland, left, with her mom Jackie. (Katherine Ward / CTV Barrie)
Sarah-Lyn was born with cystic fibrosis and for months she’s needed the help of oxygen tanks to breathe.
“One of the main organs it affects is the lungs,” says Dr. Melinda Solomon at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. “Unfortunately for her, her lung damage was significant over her 17 years of life to the point that she needed a lung transplant.”
But like most Canadians hoping for a transplant, Sarah-Lyn had to wait.
“It’s unfortunate because when we list for transplant, they are ready for transplant,” Solomon says.
Jackie Copeland, Sarah-Lyn’s mom, says it was a long waiting game.
“There were a lot of times where you are wondering, is this going to happen?” she says. “Is she going to be a statistic, that she didn’t get the lungs? I mean one person every three days dies waiting for a transplant. I didn’t want her to be that one.”
As Sarah-Lyn’s 18th birthday got closer, it looked like she wouldn’t get the organs in time to be treated at SickKids where she’s been coming for most of her life. But on the day she was preparing to transfer hospitals, all that changed.
“When we got to SickKids Rebecca, the nurse said, that she had a present for Sarah so we met her at Tim Horton’s and the doctors were there and they said her present was lungs and that they were going to do the transplant here at SickKids,” Copeland says.
Just a few weeks after her full double-lung transplant, Sarah-Lyn is making huge progress. This past weekend she was even able to go home for the first time since her surgery.
But the road ahead will not be easy.
“Is she out of the woods not yet?” says Solomon. “I would love to say there are no bumps along the road but so far she’s done incredibly well and she’s really fortunate, but we know that we’re going to have to monitor her really closely for rejection she will be on medications the rest of her life to prevent rejection.”
But that isn’t stopping Sarah-Lyn from making plans – big plans.
“I really want to go swimming in Bali or Fiji, somewhere tropical, maybe even Australia,” says Sarah-Lyn. “Just go travel outside of this two hour radius to Toronto that I’ve been stuck in for the last year.”
Copeland says her daughter has been waiting “too long” to live her life.
“We’re going to be living,” she says. “We really want to see her embrace everything and just with no restraints.”
Sarah-Lyn has been discharged from the hospital, but her recovery is far from over. She will stay in Toronto for the next three months as she undergoes extensive therapy to get her lungs in top shape.