Autumn Carlson of Abbotsford was just four and half years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia and monosomy 7, which results in bone marrow insufficiency or failure.
A bone marrow transplant cured her of the disease, but left her with a whole other set of issues that, now, at the age of 11, require her to undergo a double-lung transplant.
Earlier this week, an online fundraising campaign was started to help her and her family with the costs they will face after Autumn and her mom, Sabrina, resettle in Toronto to await her surgery.
Autumn’s procedure will be performed at Toronto General Hospital because it’s the only one in Canada that performs lung transplants on children.
Meanwhile, the rest of her family – dad Randy, sister Alyssa, 8, and brothers Nicholas, 17, and Anthony, 22 – will remain behind in Abbotsford.
Randy is a truck driver and Sabrina is unable to work, due to Autumn’s ongoing health issues.
Sabrina says they simply do not have the money for Autumn’s dad and siblings to travel to Toronto for visits, but they are close and the contact is crucial for their emotional health, especially in the wake of everything they have already faced.
After Autumn’s bone marrow transplant in December 2012, her body rejected the transplant – a condition known as graft-versus-host disease.
This caused a hole in her bowels, which healed after 10 days.
Autumn also had a huge blood clot removed from her bladder, developed a “sticky” kidney valve, and lost her toenails and fingernails.
She then developed an infection that attacked her lungs, and she spent over three months in medical isolation as she recovered.
Sabrina says the aftermath is that Autumn was diagnosed with “severe lung disease.” Four years ago, an MRI showed she had three holes in her lungs. Now, she has six. Her lung function is currently at 21 per cent.
Her oxygen levels are so low that it has placed stress on her heart. She requires oxygen all the time, especially when she’s moving, and sleeps with a BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) machine.
Over the weekend, she developed a collapsed lung and was hospitalized, but has since been released.
Doctors told the family that Autumn, who is going into Grade 7 at Abbotsford Middle School, will require a double-lung transplant. In June, she was assessed in Toronto.
Sabrina said a few final procedural steps need to be completed, and then Autumn will be placed on the waiting list for a transplant. She needs to be in Toronto at the time, but Sabrina said she has been told that the wait could take up to 1.5 years.
Once the surgery is performed, they will remain in Toronto for a few more months to ensure Autumn is healthy before they can return to Abbotsford.
Sabrina said it has been difficult to watch Autumn go through so many challenges, but she said her daughter is resilient and has a positive outlook.
“She’s shy, but I call her my feisty little firecracker,” Sabrina said.
The GoFundMe online fundraiser will assist the family with travel costs, as well as upgrades to their home – such as removing carpeting and installing hardwood – that are required to help diminish Autumn’s breathing issues.
“There are a lot of costs that will arise with this journey and, not only can this family use the help, they deserve it,” the GoFundMe page states.
The account can be accessed by searching “Support For Autumn” at gofundme.com.