STU student fights for her life

If there’s one way to describe Heather MacInnis, it’s that she’s a fighter. The STU student and New Brunswick woman had a double lung transplant for the second time last week. In order to let her body heal itself, MacInnis was medicated to stay unconscious for a few days. But now she is awake and responding well, says her fiancé Sean Campbell.

Campell says scar tissue is a risk with the transplant. There is also a risk of bleeding but he says she’s “tough and in good shape other than her lung problems.”

MacInnis has cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects one in 3,600 people in Canada. She had her first double lung transplant on February 21 2013. It was all going well until she got a bad infection last summer. She went to Toronto for a few weeks for treatment and returned to her studies in the fall. She is a religious studies and sociology major who was working on two independent studies. But by November she was unwell again, and returned to Toronto for treatment.

She was admitted to the Toronto General Hospital on Jan. 29 of this year and hasn’t been back to New Brunswick since then.

“She arrived in Toronto hoping that treatments would get her back on track. After trying every treatment in the book, as well as one less common treatment, it was determined that her antibody rejection was not letting up and that a second transplant was in order,” Campbell said.

Campbell stays in Toronto now and visits MacInnis everyday. He says the support from STU, New Brunswick, and across Canada has been overwhelming.

“I am able to stay in Toronto as a result of E.I.’s Compassionate Care benefits and my parent’s generous support. If I didn’t have one or the other, there’s no way I would be able to be here supporting my fiancé without losing our home that we have battled to hold on to. I have often wondered how people do it but I am now finding out for myself. You just do what you have to do,” Campbell said.

Michelle Soucy started the “Pennies 4 Heather” campaign, which has people across the country collecting spare pennies in support of MacInnis. There are drop off locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta. The campaign had raised $2,170.70 as of March 12.

Alison Belyea, learning for success coordinator at STU, taught MacInnis and has stayed in touch ever since.

“I really think she’ll pull through because she is so strong. That spirit is so strong even if the body is not,” Belyea said.

Campbell said when she’s better she wants to go walking, running, hiking, play various sports, finish school, and help others who are going through what she went through.

“Although she does have good days and bad days, her attitude is super positive and she is very determined,” Campbell said.

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