January is National Blood Donor Month

| January 5, 2020 | 0 Comments

During the month of January, we are reminded by the American Red Cross to donate blood.  That’s because, during this month, there is typically a short supply due to the holidays (vehicle accidents) and an increase in communicable illnesses.

With that in mind, a family in North Carolina is forever grateful to the blood donors whose blood was used throughout their son’s transplant journey and his life-saving transplant that occurred last year on January 16.

Charla and Trevor Buchanan of Robbinsville, North Carolina, are stepping into 2020 hoping and praying this is a year of no medical emergencies, no surgeries, no complications and no setbacks for their son, Charlton, who will be celebrating his 26th birthday in September — a dream come true for this family. 

According to Charla, “For 24 years we have been on a Cystic Fibrosis (CF) journey … but more than that, we have been on a faith journey. Our son, Charlton, was born with CF, which is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and an overall inability to thrive. From his premature birth until very recently, Charlton’s life has consisted of daily physical and respiratory therapy, medications, quarterly clinic visits to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and annual (sometimes bi-annual) hospital stays.”

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disorder that primarily affects the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestines. Long-term issues include difficulty breathing and coughing up mucus as a result of frequent lung infections. CF is an inherited disease, and while there is promising research, there is no known cure.

Even with a multitude of CF-related challenges, Charlton attended and graduated from Robbinsville (NC) High School. He then attended Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and received a degree in computer information systems on May 12, 2018. He was hired by the Graham County (NC) government to work in its Information Technology Department. His life definitely seemed to be moving in the right direction.

However, 2018 proved to be one of the hardest years of Charlton’s life due to nine hospitalizations. His lung function rapidly declined, and with each hospital stay, increasing amounts of oxygen were required. During a challenging two-week hospital stay in December, Charlton’s transplant team decided it was time to list Charlton for a double lung transplant while he was still healthy enough to thrive and before there was further lung decline.

Charlton was officially listed for new lungs on January 9, 2019. One week later on January 16, the Buchanan family received ‘the call’ telling them lungs were available.

Charla posted this update on Facebook, “Transplant day has been long for everyone. We are all excited and want to hear good news, but the only news so far is that the surgery is going well and it will still be a long wait. On January 17 she updated, “Charlton is out of surgery and in recovery. He woke up easily, was taken off the ventilator, took his first breath with lungs that are not diseased with Cystic Fibrosis — and never will be.

In the midst of this whirlwind a transplant social worker at UNC Medical Center had introduced the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) to the Buchanans and suggested they might want to consider fundraising for the transplant-related medical costs they would be facing. On January 11th, Charla called COTA to learn more and to ask many good questions about how COTA might be able to help. On January 29th, Charla and Trevor returned the paperwork and officially became part of the COTA Family.

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), a 501(c)3 charity, works with individuals of any age with single gene disorders, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Polycystic Kidney Disease and Sickle Cell Anemia. COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers.

“It is overwhelming to hear the word ‘transplant’ but even more overwhelming to learn about the related expenses. From the moment we learned about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) and reached out prior to our son’s transplant, we were instantly set at ease. To a family in crisis, that gift is priceless! It is hard to describe the reassurance in knowing COTA will be there for Charlton for a lifetime,” Charla said.

Charlton continues to thrive in every aspect. At his ten month post-transplant follow-up appointment, the doctors told him he was doing so well he did not need to come back until his one-year checkup.  Charlton is living life to the fullest and is now planning for a bright future — something he was previously reluctant to do.

Mom Charla reflected, “Looking back at pictures from last year at this time, it is very humbling to realize how low he actually was and now how far he has come. This lung transplant has truly been a life-saving gift in so many ways, and COTA has been there through every step of the process. We now understand why a transplant anniversary is celebrated.”

To learn more about the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA),

Or, to find a COTA family in your area, please email kim@cota.org.

Charlton is living life to the fullest and is now planning for a bright and long future.

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