Sontag family happy to be back home

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 3, 2003

SONTAG — Home was beginning to take the tone of a dream for a15-year-old Sontag girl recovering from a double-lung and livertransplant at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, but now it’sreality.

“It’s great to be home,” said Brandi Cobb. “I’ve really missedbeing here, and I missed everyone.”

The Cobbs — Brandi and her parents Samuel “Sammy” and PaulaCobb — returned home late Feb. 7 after a grueling all-day drivefrom St. Louis. They had been in St. Louis for more than a yearwhile awaiting, and then recovering from, Brandi’s transplant.

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“St. Louis had become a second home for us,” Sammy said. “Everytime (Paula or I) made a trip down here, we went back with more andmore stuff. Our household items were split between Sontag and St.Louis.”

Since they’ve been home, the family has spent much of it’s timevisiting with friends and family who have been anxious to talk withBrandi. Although they had been kept up-to-date on her progressthrough Sammy and Paula, telephone calls, letters, a website andeven a photo album, nothing quite matched talking with her again inperson.

“All of Sontag always knew what was going on,” Sammy said. “Somepeople would take the latest updates from the website to church andread them, and they were always posted at Douglas Grocery.”

Douglas Grocery also maintained a photo album of the Cobbfamily’s time in St. Louis.

The constant concern and the support of the community, as wellas friends and family, was truly touching, Paula said.

“We could fill the newspaper with all the people we would liketo thank for their support and prayers,” she said.

Paula said most people are visiting them at home. It is hard forBrandi to go visiting because here immune system is “wipedout.”

Parenting has changed drastically for Sammy and Paula, theysaid, because “before the transplant she was in the hospital about70 percent of the time.”

Their concerns always hinged on whether she could breathe orwhen they would need to visit the hospital next.

Now, however, they are learning to come to terms with theconcerns parents of a teenager with a more normal life mustface.

“We’re trying to give her more freedom to do things without usthat she wants to do, but it’s hard and nerve-wracking,” Paulasaid. “Now we’re more worried about the stuff parents should beworried about, rather than worrying about things related to herillness.”

“We’re trying to keep her protected, but we don’t want her tofeel wrapped in plastic either,” Sammy explained.

Brandi is taking it all in stride. She jokes with her parentswhen they revert unnecessarily to their old concerns, and she isenjoying her new freedom.

In fact, she jokes about many things now.

“They have a very bad sense of what breakfast is in St. Louis,”she said. “They give you fruits and bagels and think that’s it.They don’t even know what grits are.”

“One of the things we missed the most was what we consider realfood, obviously,” Sammy said and laughed.

Southern food, such as cornbread, grits and beans and rice, justwere not available there.

Food has become a very important issue for Brandi. Before thetransplant, eating was work and she didn’t have the energy tomanage more than a few bites. It was difficult to maintain herweight. Now, Brandi says, she is on a “see food” diet.

“Before, everything tasted the same,” she said. “Now, I eat alot because I enjoy the taste.”

She has rediscovered such favorites as ice cream, but even moretraditional foods, like hamburgers, are in peril when Brandi isaround, the family agreed with a smile.

The Cobbs are not sure how long they will be able to stay athome, but hope it will be for a long time. Brandi is going throughher third month of a cancer treatment and exercises regularly.

The family goes back to St. Louis March 9 for a check up. Ifthings go well, they will be able to return home.

“When we go back, we’re praying that when they scan her thecancer will be gone,” Paula said.

“It is beatable,” Sammy said. “It is not a normal cancer likewhat most people think of, but I can’t really explain it.”

It’s a form of cancer frequent to transplant cases, he said.

In the meantime, Brandi is making plans for her future. She hasno immediate plans to return to Lawrence County High School becauseher immune system is still weak and being in public constantlywould be too much of a strain. While her immune system recovers,though, Brandi said she intends to spend more time on her schoolwork and try to return during her senior year.

“I kind of got behind on my school work during all this,” sheadmitted.

Brandi loves to hear from her friends and neighbors and urgesanyone interested to log into her website to post messages and sign theguestbook.