Maggie Minister and her family can rest a little easier -her quest for a new set of lungs is finally over.
After almost six years of waiting for a bilateral lung transplant, she can start getting used to a new pair thanks to a recently deceased donor.
Her story is one of heartache and sadness. After being diagnosed at the Val d’Or hospital back in 1999 with pulmonary fibrosis, Maggie refused to quit.
Her family, especially her son Johnny, was very supportive and was almost certain their prayers would be answered with new lungs.
Johnny could hardly contain himself when he spoke to the Nation. “I’m high on life right now. What a rush! Good things come to those who wait, I tell you. Whatever happens, sure enough it’s for people who deserve it.
Obviously my mom deserved a second chance in life and that’s what she got,” he said.
The miracle happened at 4 am March 2. “There’s a woman at Maison des Greffes, her name is Valerie,”
Johnny recounted. “She’s the one who took my mom to the hospital, even though she is a patient herself. That place is all about teamwork and they teamed up. She has no idea how many friends she has just made in James Bay.”
Her son was on his way back up north after visiting his mom for a few days when he was hit with the amazing news.
“I got off the bus and Robert Coonishish and his wife were there to give me the message and I almost freaked out. It didn’t really sink in but when it did I shook their hands and gave them hugs and they were crying.”
Back in 1999 Maggie was told she had five years to live. Now 49, she’s been proving the doctors wrong ever since.
With her new set of lungs, she’ll hopefully be able to go out for goose break, one of her favorite times of the year. Her son is already looking forward to having her pluck his geese.
“I appreciate the support we got, we couldn’t have done it without all those prayers,” said her jubilant son. “I believe in God and I’ve seen him work in miracles and this is one of them.”
Her sister Nellie Coonishish was equally ecstatic. “I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’m glad for her that the surgery is done,” said Coonishish, who took time out from her job at the school in Nemaska to be with her ailing older sister.
“Yesterday [March 7], she spoke to me for the first time. She was able to speak in short sentences and it was the first time she spoke without effort. I told her to relax and stay calm, because I didn’t want her to use much energy.”
Nellie added that traveling to Montreal from Nemaska was starting to take its toll on the family. “It’s been difficult with her being so far away in Montreal, but I know she wants to be with family. I can see that she needs a lot of support so I decided to stay longer. I didn’t want Johnny to be with her alone either, so me and my daughter and her boyfriend came down. She also had close friends from Timmins come to visit her.”
Because Maggie was still recovering and going through the rehabilitation process, she couldn’t speak to the Nation at press time.
Although a transplant of this magnitude is not considered successful until at least five years, the new lease on life that comes with them has made her family realize that hope is a very strong word.
“I’m really speechless,” said Johnny. “I’m so proud of her for hanging in there. She’s taught me a lot about being strong.”