Boy's chances for life hang on lung donations

April 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Young Jordy Carper could get a new lease on life if his mother and grandmother have a chance to donate part of their lungs to help him fight cystic fibrosis.

Jordy's mother, Melissa Carper, 28, and his maternal grandmother, Sherilyn Barnhart, 51, say they are willing to donate part of their lungs in a rare operation to help the 10-year-old Berkeley County boy.

Cystic fibrosis patients usually receive lung transplants from deceased donors, but the waiting list for the organs is long and it often is too late by the time donors are found, according to Melissa Carper.


She and her mother hope Jordy will be admitted to Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles where the Tuscarora Elementary School student could receive one lobe from each of their lungs.

The lobes make up only a small part of the adult lung, but because of Jordy's size, the two lobes would be sufficient for his body, said his mother.

Cystic fibrosis is a fatal congenital disease that causes the lungs to deteriorate. The disease allows mucus to clog the lungs, where infections can flourish and ultimately lead to death.

Carper said an operation of the type they want for Jordy is rare because few people know about it and because the procedure poses ethical concerns. There has been some concern about the living donor operation because three people are put at risk in the procedure instead of one, she said.

But it's nothing Carper is thinking twice about.

``Would you elect not to give your son a transplant?" Carper asked.

"I think I would feel exactly the same way. Some people believe in heroism measures whether it makes sense or not," said Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, who has helped Carper find medical help for her son and raise money for an operation.

Officials at Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles are evaluating Jordy's condition, and have not made a decision on whether they will perform the surgery, according to family members and hospital spokesman Steve Rutledge.

Carper said doctors in California have told her Jordy has a year to live if he does not have the operation.

Jordy's plight gained national attention Tuesday as Carper began fielding phone calls from television news networks.

This morning between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., members of the Carper family are to appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" to talk about the operation, Carper said. "I'm overwhelmed right now," Carper said.

"I'm excited," Jordy said. "I just want to get it done."

Jordy, who is fond of the Power Rangers and comedian Jim Carrey, has maintained an "A" average even though he can attend school only part time because of his illness.

Last winter, Jordy's family began looking for ways to pay for the operation. Douglas said she worked with the family in an attempt to have Medicaid cover the expenses, but the agency could not pay for the operation because it is considered an experimental procedure.

Jordy's operation is expected to cost about $350,000 and the operations for his grandmother and mother would run about $40,000 each, Melissa Carper said. Jordy would be hospitalized for at least four months until doctors were assured that the transplant is a success, Carper said.

Family members believe the entire process will cost about $900,000 once travel and living expenses are included.

Help for the Carper's came quickly, however.

At the Falling Waters Presbyterian Church, where the Carpers are members, a fund has been set up to help pay for Jordy Carper's operation. So far, the community has donated about $23,000 to the fund, Carper said.

Officials from across the state have helped the family raise money, and on May 19 several members of the West Virginia Legislature plan to hold a golf tournament at Pipestem Resort near Hinton to raise money for the operation, said Douglas.

NFL Hall-of-Famer Sam Huff, who met the family through Del. Jerry Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire, paid for the family's lodging and travel expenses when they traveled to Childrens Hospital two weeks ago for a series of hospital tests for Jordy.

"He's a wonderful, beautiful child," Huff said. "I'm doing everything I can."

Jordy, his mother, two brothers and father Gary live along Spring Mills Road in northern Berkeley County.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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