My name is Kelly Ann Quinlan and I am 19 years old. I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth. My 24-year-old brother Michael also has cystic fibrosis, which is a challenge, as we both live in the same home but must live separately to a degree. We are very close to our parents and sometimes they struggle with the extra duties and constant cleaning that comes with raising two CF children.
Michael was my best friend growing up and he still is. While in our younger years we argued, as all siblings do, at the end of the day nothing can come between us. I am sure our common medical concerns have bonded us even closer and as we grew, our commitment to each other also became stronger.
At age 13 I become sick on a more regular basis and became a frequent patient at the Janeway Hospital with the CF staff knowing me and my parents on a first name basis. My first year of Junior High in Grade 7 went smoothly without any major concerns. However, during Grade 8 the trouble hit with my hospital rotation being three weeks as an inpatient and one week home as an outpatient for approximately three years. In 2014, I ended up in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Janeway Children’s Hospital and that was scary for both me and my family. After two weeks in the PICU, I was transferred to a hospital ward for antibiotics and monitoring, and referred to the Toronto SickKids hospital for a double lung transplant assessment. I thought that everything was rapidly going downhill and my world was crashing down around me.
The result was me being medevacked to Toronto from St. John’s with my mother, father, and brother following. I was admitted for eight days and then returned home, and was amazed by how good I felt like nothing had happened. Just a short six weeks later I was readmitted to the Janeway Hospital with breathing difficulties with this “in and out” hospital cycle continuing for the longest time.
In 2015, I had a major bleed in my lung combined with kidney trouble and I was again medevacked to Toronto for a two week stay in the Children’s Hospital. I was sent home, but the trouble continued. In August 2017, my health seriously deteriorated and I became very sick with me losing weight, unable to walk or eat properly and my bodily functions shutting down. I was admitted to the hospital and I knew that my life was getting short. My salvation would only be a double-lung transplant and time was becoming short for this happening. This was a very stressful and emotional time for me and my family, but it was the only positive outcome available to me. In December 2017, I again came to Toronto for the final assessment for the double-lung transplant. I knew the time had come for my second chance at life. After that long and stressful week of day-long appointment, I went home to wait for the final decision as I was a candidate for the transplant, but the decision was left up to me.
My “gut” reaction was that I did not want to go through the hard journey ahead but as I was waiting for this miracle to happen I took sick again and I realized it was time to breathe again. In January 2018, I made the eventful call that put the date in place for me and my immediate family to relocate to Toronto to start my journey. As you can imagine leaving my town, family, friends, house and pets were extremely stressful not knowing what was ahead of me and the outcome of our “best-laid plans”. But the path ahead of me was sun and brightness, not cloudiness and coughing. March came, and I signed my final papers and waited for the “are-you-ready” call. The blur over the next couple of months was filled with doctor appointments, physiotherapy and IV antibiotics. For four long months, I was unable to do much of anything as I was either in a wheelchair or dragging an oxygen tank around and being sick with no energy, but I had a positive attitude and did the best I could to pass the time.
Then I received the long-awaited call. My brother, aunt, and uncle flew in from Newfoundland to be with me and to offer support to us all. As I underwent a 10 ½ hour double-lung transplant, my mother, father, brother, aunt and uncle and family and friends back home, were anxiously awaiting an update. The waiting and not knowing was so long for them in the hospital. The surgery had been completed and the doctors said it went perfect and my family would be able to see me soon. I woke up in three short hours after hearing my brother’s voice and reached out and grabbed his hand and opened my eyes I was determined. This moment I will always remember. Twenty-six hours later I was up walking, and everything was positive on my road to recovery.
Being a cystic fibrosis patient is a struggle, but the best factor is having family and friends close for support because I would not have gotten far without them. Special thanks and appreciation to family and friends who have helped me through, and who have offered me many words of encouragement over the hard times that resulted in this success. I am so excited to be able to live the life of a 19-year-old. I have had my share of sickness but have always said…
“You have to deal with the rain if you want the rainbow”.
- Kelly A. Quinlan