Jennifer Nelson family aided by COTA and community in lung transplant quest

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer, 16-year-old daughter of Wes and Nikki Nelson of Midland, continues her battle with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). CF is a genetic disorder that particularly affects the lungs and digestive system and requires ongoing treatment and medical care.

COTA exists to assist patients who require a life-saving organ, bone marrow, cord blood or stem cell transplant. It works with any patient who needs a transplant due to a genetic disease such as Cystic Fibrosis, and all patients 21 and younger for any disease or complication. COTA has assisted with fundraising for more than 850 families to meet transplant related expenses - direct expenses as well as those extraneous expenses not covered by insurance. COTA guides the family and their volunteers through every step including: organizing and training the campaign committee, planning successful events and activities, working with the media and finding multiple sources of funding.

Jenn has recently returned home from a two week hospital stay in Omaha, NE. Although she is out of the hospital, she is not well enough yet to return to school. A web cam system will be set up in the Philip High School commons area so that during lunch, or a free period, students can communicate with Jenn as a way to keep her connected to school and her friends. "I'm glad to have her home," said older brother James, "but I have to steer clear to avoid getting her sick." Jenn must be extra cautious to not contract germs and illnesses from others.

Amy Rasing, resource development manager from COTA, walked everyone through the basics of the campaign. "COTA is here to ensure that all funds and care given goes as planned, which is directly to the family, helping to pay medical expenses, transportation, prescriptions, and meals away from home," she said.

Campaign Coordinators Jesse and Sheryl Hansen met the Nelsons through the 4-H program. Realizing that the Midland High School was closing and the students would be driving around 30 miles one way, the Hansens offered their home as a place for Jenn to stay and rest. "The house is pretty quiet without Jenn now," said Sheryl. "She is a blessing to us and an easy child to love."

The meeting was tearful, touching, and inspirational. "Its great, all these people coming together," said Wes. "I'm glad to see everyone out to support Jenn."

On December 11, Jenn will go to the University of Minnesota Medical Center for an evaluation that will determine her need for a double lung transplant. Then, she will be placed on a waiting list that could take anywhere from six hours to six months to receive her new set of lungs.

The average transplant ranges from $300,000 to $500,000. The goal is to raise at least $65,000. Bank accounts and other methods of contributing are being set up. Donations are tax free and tax deductible. If you are interested in helping or have any questions, contact Jesse and Sheryl at 859-2044.

A pie auction on November 17 raised $7,200. Dan Piroutek, Billy Markwed and Jeff Long auctioned off approximately 40 pies which were donated by fellow 4-H families. Since then, more donations have been constantly coming in.

Another meeting has been scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 13, in room A1 at the Philip High School to continue fundraising efforts. The $65,000 goal is reachable. Everyone is encouraged to attend. Friends and family say, "Help us give Jennifer her double lung transplant and a second breath of life."