ALBERTON -- She doesn’t possess any grandiose plans of scaling a mountain or swimming to New Brunswick and back, but what Mandy (Cahill) Rayner has in mind for when she gets her new lungs is certainly near and dear to her heart.
“Just to run and play with my dogs and my nieces and nephews; I can’t wait,” says the 30 year-old Central Kildare resident.
“I haven’t run in years. Just to run with my dogs, or my nieces and nephews and not be, two seconds afterwards, trying to catch my breath and coughing and hacking.”
The daughter of Edward and Darlene Cahill of Alberton, Rayner was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at two and a half months of age. Except for her medications, chest percussions and routine medical appointments, CF didn’t take much hold of her for many years. She developed CF-related diabetes at 15 and in 2003 had to go on oxygen for a year. She bounced back from that and things were pretty normal until December 27, 2012 when she was rushed to hospital. She’s been on oxygen ever since and spent most of the past eight months in hospitals.
On January 3 she and her husband, Derek, moved to Toronto to make final preparations for her to get on the organ transplant list. On Tuesday, January 28, she signed the papers that officially put her on the list to await a double lung transplant.
She will continue to work at building up her strength through walking and physical exercise while awaiting the call.
“It felt really great after I signed those papers. I said ‘I’m ready, lets go,’” Rayner said in a telephone interview from her hospital room.
“I’m signing on to a new life: new lungs, new life.”
She will need to take anti-rejection drugs and continue with her CF medication.
She knows of people who have been doing fine 12, 15 years following transplant. “Every story I hear is amazing, and that really gives me a really good outlook on what I’m going to feel like. I’m going to be able to take one good, deep breath and just let ‘er go.”
CF, she said, never rely slowed her down much until the past year. “People would see me take my pills and puffers and all that stuff in public; and my needles and stuff and they’d say, ‘Mandy, how do you do it?’ I’m like, ‘the same way you get up every morning, you get showered, you get dressed, you go to work. I do the same things, just added a few extras in there.’ I don’t know anything different.’”
Rayner had been enjoying her job at Foodland in Bloomfield until CF complications forced her to take a leave in October, 2012. The self-described social butterfly rarely went out in public in the past year or so because of the risk of picking up germs or infections.
She has remained optimistic. “You’ve got to look at the positive; you’ve got to have a good outlook on life,” she stressed. “I say laughter is your best medicine. You’ve got to have humour, joke around.”
She said she is both mentally and physically ready for the transplant whenever the call comes. “This is it.” She said her husband has been “my rock that I lean on,” and added she has received great support from their families, including her parents, Derek’s parents, Blair and Aldona Rayner of Kildare and Ruby and James DesRoches of Summerside, and from friends and strangers.
Relatives and close friends are organizing a benefit for the young couple to assist with their medical and living expenses. It will be held at the Alberton Community Centre on Saturday, February 8, 7 p.m. There will be local talent, an auction and silent auction and a 50-50 draw.
The wait for a transplant can be as short as a few days to as long as a year or more. Size of the lungs, blood type and where an individual is on the waiting list are all factors.
Derek, who has been staying in a hotel since the couple moved to Toronto, moves into an apartment February 1. Mandy hopes to join him there to complete her wait once her strength has been restored. He will need to come home by spring for his seasonal job at Alberton Fisheries. Other family members will take turns staying with Mandy in Toronto.
Even once the transplant is performed, the Central Kildare woman will be required to remain in Toronto for at least three months.