Meet Elissa Casper
From the time I was born my lungs gave me trouble. I had acute asthma and severe allergies. I spent a great deal of time in the hospital as a child due to severe asthma attacks and 10 different serious bouts with pneumonia. The entire year before my wedding I was sick with bronchitis and pneumonia. My first trimester of pregnancy my breathing was so bad I had to keep going to the hospital for breathing treatments. By the age of 32, it seemed to be under control.
In 2007 I was 40 years old. I was partnered in several businesses and working non-stop. I caught a pretty bad cold. I had no choice but to continue working 15 hour days and the cold turned into pneumonia. I was struggling so hard to take just a few steps and having extreme bouts of coughing constantly. At the time I didn’t have insurance, but would go to the emergency clinic to no avail. Since I was paying cash, I decided to go straight to an asthma specialist.
After 8 months of emergency care visits and about 6 different appointments trying different inhalers and medications, he said, “This is not your asthma. The inhalers aren’t working. The meds aren’t working. I’m going to send you for a CT scan right now.” The next day he told me, “You have a very serious lung disease called Pulmonary Fibrosis and you need to get insurance right away. I’ve set up a referral to a Pulmonologist and arranged for you to see him today.” I went to that Pulmonologist and he place, what I now know is a pulse oximeter on me and had me walk about 10 feet and I had to stop. The reading of 62 oxygen saturation meant nothing to me at the time. He never explained the illness, except to say I would need a biopsy but was too ill to receive one. I went home and googled this illness, I never heard of, and was completely stunned. I had a 10 year old son and the prognosis on the internet gave me 2-5 years I was terrified.
It was an extremely difficult battle with little information and feeling hopeless until in 2014, I found a very good Pulmonologist that referred me to USC Keck Hospital for transplant. The thought terrified me and I did not think that I could do it. I sought support and information through the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation and contacted Gloria Rodriguez the founder of One Breath Foundation. She told me a little bit about her journey to transplant and was so encouraging. I decided to attend a meeting and found the most amazing group of people who were either ill and on their journey towards transplant or had already been transplanted. Hearing their stories and getting information that’s not available from healthcare professionals or on the internet was invaluable to me. Gloria would call me constantly to see how I was and offer to help with the long battle of getting listed for transplant. I found so many caring people at One Breath that had similar struggles, it gave me hope to continue to fight. I’m not sure if I could’ve gone through with the transplant without the encouragement I received.
She received a second chance of life May 19th 2018
I had been recommended to either get double listed or go to Arizona because of high antibodies, they were not even close to finding a match that my body wouldn’t reject. I had been getting infusions every other week for 6 hours a day for 2 years to bring down my levels and it wasn’t working. I was 3 days from leaving to go to Arizona with all my stuff already there, insurance, medical records and driver’s license to show that I was ready to get transplanted at St. Joseph’s. I was listed for 30 months before I got my transplant on May 19th 2018. It was 10 years from the date I got diagnosed.
Even though I went through 10 years of hell, as my husband says, there was never a time I regretted all that I went through. It allowed me a rare chance to see the best in people and truly who would be there through thick and thin. It allowed me to see how hard life can get and how amazing it can be. Gloria Rodriguez and the people at One Breath Foundation were truly the best support anyone could ask for. They gave me hope when I had none and showed me what the possibilities of a new life looked like. I never dreamed I could be this happy and excited to live! My Donor, their family and my family, friends and One Breath Foundation have given me a second chance. I pray everyone struggling with this illness also get’s their second chance too.