Friends Rally To Help Woman Get New Lungs

By Carina Livoti

clivoti@longislandergroup.com

 

Whitman graduate Ann Marie Cortina must wear a mask to avoid picking up infections at the hospital, especially in the elevator.

Whitman graduate Ann Marie Cortina must wear a mask to avoid picking up infections at the hospital, especially in the elevator.

For most of us, the words “take a deep breath” are more soothing than stressful. For 41-year-old Walt Whitman High School graduate Ann Marie Cortina, they pose an almost insurmountable challenge.

Cortina has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary condition that damages the lungs. Diagnosed at the age of 2, Cortina said she was fortunate enough to go through most of her life without too much trouble. She was hospitalized here and there, but for a victim of cystic fibrosis, her experience was relatively mild until a sudden decline last year.

Now she needs new lungs.

“I ran a relatively normal life until about two years ago… I just started getting sicker, and then I rapidly declined until December, when I got pneumonia and I was put on 24-hour oxygen,” she said.

Previously an executive assistant to two medical companies, Cortina was forced to go on disability in 2012 as her health began to decline. She said prior to her bout of pneumonia, she was on nighttime oxygen.

“Just before I got the pneumonia [my doctor] said she wanted to talk to me about transplants, just in case I needed one in the future,” she said.

Neither Cortina nor her doctor anticipated that she would be on a transplant list just months later.

Neither Cortina nor her doctor anticipated that she would be on a transplant list just months later.

“Everything is moving along kind of quickly with Ann Marie. She’s on the transplant list and she can get it whenever she’s ready,” Cortina’s cousin, Kortney Radice said.

Transplants come with a lifetime of additional medical costs, including anti-rejection medications, some of which the insurance covers, others that often come with hefty copayments. As a result, Cortina’s friends and family started an online fundraising campaign in mid-March with a goal of raising $50,000 before Cortina receives her transplant.

“It’s not something we can just take our time with; this is someone’s life we’re talking about. If you knew Ann Marie, she’s not a person to rely on other people or to ask other people to support her,” Radice said.

In addition to the page, which has raised over $20,000 so far, friends and family have begun holding events in Cortina’s honor.

Radice is organizing a dinner event at Huntington’s Eatalia, a new restaurant taking over the space at 34 New Street in Huntington, on May 31 called “Just Breathe,” where she hopes to raise funds for her cousin and awareness for cystic fibrosis.

“I don’t think people know much about the disease, the severity of it, the fact that it’s a life-threatening illness,” she said.

The night will feature dinner, cocktails, raffles and prizes, all for $60 a head.

“It’s going to be a fun time—that’s our goal. We want people to come and enjoy themselves and have a nice night out all the while supporting a great cause,” she said.

For more information on the event and Cortina’s story, visit https://m.helphopelive.org/campaign/6507.