by Samantha Barna
Today, I was having a “rough” day – I had physical therapy at 9 AM, a past due assignment to complete, and I was running on a few hours of sleep. However, today, I had one of those “Aha!” moments where everything is suddenly put into perspective. That aha moment, came in the form of Morgan Yoney.
Morgan is 21, just a few months younger than me, and Morgan desperately needs a new set of O+ lungs. Morgan was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was just 9 months old. She has been bravely battling the disease ever since then. In 2010 Morgan received a double lung and liver transplant, she felt markedly better for three years and was able to enjoy many teenage milestones. However, in 2013 her body began to reject the lungs. Subsequently, she had to leave her beloved Slippery Rock University and a group of new friends and sorority sisters, in order to focus on her health.
Morgan explained more about what Cystic Fibrosis is, and how it affects her life, saying: “It’s a chronic, genetic illness. Both parents have to have the gene to pass down for the child to have CF. It mainly affects the lungs and digestive system. Basically, what it does is it makes sticky mucus that clogs your airways and makes it harder for you to breathe. It causes a lot of chest infections. It affects the pancreas too—it doesn’t make enzymes to digest the food, so I have to take enzymes every time I eat. I’m actually diabetic too because my pancreas doesn’t work. It also affects 15% of CF patients’ livers, so that’s why I had to have the liver transplant too. It causes fatty liver disease and it turns into cirrhosis, so that’s why I had to have that done. And just because of all the mucus and chest infections and stuff, it causes a lot of scarring and issues in the lungs, which is why so many patients end up having to have lung transplants.” As the chronic rejection of Morgan’s lungs worsens, she now needs 24/7 oxygen and bipap through the night.
Suddenly, everything that I had been worrying about seemed insignificant. 21 is a time for parties with friends, late night studying for exams, impulsive trips, and ultimately for figuring out who you are and what you want to be. 21 isn’t the age for hours in the hospital, piles of medical bills, multiple treatments per day, and constant worry. Morgan let me know that she loves to spend time with her dogs and chickens, she loves to be outdoors, ride her family’s ATVs, and create crafts with her sister to sell on Etsy. However, this is the sickest that Morgan has ever been and she’s unable to do many of the things that she loves. With a new set of lungs, Morgan could be given a second chance at life, a chance to be a happy 21 year old.
I asked Morgan how she managed to stay positive in the face of such adversity, she responded that, “I’ve kind of always been sick my whole life, so this is kind of normal for me, I’m not used to being healthy all the time. This is sicker than I’ve ever been, but I just have a lot of support from my family and friends and I’ve just kind of always had a more positive outlook on life.” Morgan’s mom, Tammy, adds “It’s hard to be negative when there’s so much positivity surrounding you.” Morgan and Tammy both expressed their gratitude to the Waynesburg and Pittsburgh communities for their support.
Morgan and Tammy both discussed the support of two very special people in particular: Dan Burda and Steve Perrine. Dan, owner of Studio Raw salon, and his fiancé, Steve, have been instrumental in starting a social media campaign to get Morgan lungs. Dan and Steve suggest that everyone affix a sign stating “O+ Lungs needed for Morgan Yoney,” to their business, car, or home.
So how can you help? Creating a sign is a great way to start. Furthermore, you can follow “Morgans Army” on Facebook. Once you’ve followed the page, share it with your followers and friends as much as possible. Many supporters are also making videos to inform their friends of Morgan’s situation, at the end of each video the supporter is supposed to challenge three specific friends to make videos of their own. Morgan’s family also has a GoFundMe page in order to help with the astronomical expenses of her care. You can sign up to become an organ donor.
Beyond just trying to find a donor, Morgan is hoping that her efforts will raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and the importance of organ donation. Less than 45% of the U.S. population are registered organ donors, while thousands of patients remain on waitlists. April is National Donate Life Month, and May is National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. Morgan sincerely hopes that sharing her story will help to raise awareness of both.
We finished up our interview by talking about Morgan’s future plans. Morgan told me, “I want to be able to go back to school and start some type of career. I just want to get back to somewhat of a normal life.” It was truly an honor to get to know someone so positive and whose light shines so brightly in the face of adversity. Please, join us in helping to raise awareness for Morgan, who deserves a chance to just be “21.”