Local resident awaiting double-lung transplant

If Amanda Jerry could have one wish, it most likely would be to breathe easy.
At just 27 years of age, and having never smoked, she needs a double-lung transplant because of damage done to her lungs by emphysema. Diagnosed with the disease in December, Jerry is on oxygen 24 hours a day and is severely limited in her day-to- day activities.
“The doctors give you two options–either you die or you do this,” Jerry’s stepmom, Carol Brown, said yesterday of her decision in favour of the transplant.
“The average wait for a transplant is 13 months and the longest a patient has lived waiting for a transplant is 12-and-a-half-years–that’s a good sign,” she added.
Brown said her stepdaughter was handling the emotional roller coaster of the ordeal with courage even though inner strength was very difficult to maintain at times.
“She’s handling it pretty good. She has her outbursts [of tears] and then the next minute she’s laughing, saying ‘I’m going to do this,’” Brown remarked.
“It’s so hard on her emotionally,” she lamented.
Emphysema begins with the destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, where oxygen from the air is exchanged for carbon dioxide in the blood.
Because the walls of the airs sacs are so thin and fragile, damage to them is irreversible and results in permanent “holes” in the tissue of the lower lungs.
As the air sacs are destroyed, the lungs are able to transfer less and less oxygen to the bloodstream, causing shortness of breath. The lungs also lose their elasticity so the patient experiences great difficulty exhaling.
To be on the active list for a lung transplant, Jerry must live within 90 minutes of the Toronto General Hospital, where the operation would take place.
In the face of huge financial costs, Jerry will move to Toronto with her husband, Kevin, by the end of the week and wait out the availability of a double-lung donor.
“There is the [Northern Ontario] travel grant only and beyond that there is nothing–no government help at all,” Brown said. “The lung transplant team told us that.”
One of the biggest expenses will be rent. Although Brown was lucky enough to land the couple an apartment across the street from the General Hospital, it will cost $1,125 per month.
“That’s the cheapest I could get,” she stressed, adding the couple will have to stay in a hotel for three weeks until the apartment becomes available May 1.
Brown said she and Jerry’s dad, Fred, would be doing everything they could to provide financial assistance to the young couple but admitted outside help would be essential in order to meet long-term expenses in Toronto.
Brown sent letters to three local service clubs requesting donations on behalf of her stepdaughter. So far, the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club and Lions Club each have contributed $1,500 to help with Jerry’s living expenses in Toronto.
Also lending a hand is the “Ladies of the Halkirk Fire Protection Team” quilting group at Bears Pass, of which Brown is a member. Together they have handstitched a generously-sized queen-size “Beary Hopeful Quilt,” which will be raffled off as a fundraiser for Jerry.
Tickets on the quilt, sponsored by the Catholic Women’s League, will go on sale soon at various locations around town, with the draw date set for Aug. 7 during the annual Halkirk fish fry.
“So many people have offered to sell tickets,” said Brown, “So many people have helped so much–it is amazing to know there are people like that.
“It’s beyond words.”
St. Mary’s Church here will accept charitable donations in Jerry’s name from anyone wishing to help with her expenses.
People also can make donations to the “Amanda Jerry Fund” account at the Toronto Dominion Bank.