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Transplant lets Cobb enjoy teenage years

SONTAG — A year after having a double-lung and livertransplant, Brandi Cobb has been living her dream: the life of anormal teenager.

Cobb, 16, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, received thetransplant on Sept. 9, 2002, at St. Louis Children’s Hospital inSt. Louis. Her original organs had become problematic because ofthe disease.

Much of her life had been spent in the hospital and wasotherwise limited because of the disease. Her lungs had only a 16percent capacity, making the act of breathing difficult, even whencarrying a supply of oxygen.

The transplant has changed all that, she said.

“I’m getting used to the idea of being able to breath again andbeing normal,” she said.

Brandi and her parents, Samuel “Sammy” and Paula Cobb of Sontag,stayed at the hospital in St. Louis for many months after thesurgery before being allowed to return home. Their return inFebruary was a celebration as friends and family welcomed Brandihome.

“It’s very sobering for us to look through the photo album andrealize how blessed we are,” Paula said. “A lot of them (otherpatients) don’t make it.”

Since her return, Brandi said she has been enjoying life andspending time with her friends.

“Her friends are over here all the time,” Paula said. “On aFriday or Saturday night, it’s nothing to have seven kids stayovernight or stay the weekend.”

“We don’t mind because we still want to keep an eye on her,”Sammy added.

The parents also enjoy seeing Brandi interact with her friendsand do things she could hardly dream of before. Before thetransplant, Brandi barely had the breath for a chuckle, butlaughter fills the house now.

“She can be just as loud as her friends,” Sammy said. “We hearthem laughing and can hear her laughing as hard as them. It ticklesus to death.”

Brandi said she tries to live as normal a life as she can, andher parents try to let her.

“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.”

One of those activities is driving. At 16, Brandi has the samedesire as any teenager that age. She wants to drive a car.

Brandi went with a friend a few days ago to get her driver’slicense, but was two days short and was not allowed to take thetests. She intends to get it next month when the inspectors returnto Monticello.

“I could go to Brookhaven and get my license now,” she said,”but I want to get it in Monticello.”

Brandi said she appreciates the love and support of thecommunity, especially during her struggle, but she also hopes hernewfound normalcy will allow her to fade into the background.

“I’m shy,” she said. “I thought after the transplant peoplewouldn’t stare at me. Before the transplant, I knew they werestaring because of the oxygen, but now they’re just staring becausethey recognize me from all the media coverage. It’s hard to goanywhere and not be recognized.”

A further sign of her recovery is that now she is dating a”young man from Monticello,” but she declined to say more. Shescolded Paula good-naturedly as her mother began to givedetails.

Brandi has reconsidered her future now that it has opened widefor her. Because the transplant has severely hampered her immunesystem, a return to Lawrence County High School does not seemlikely.

One day of each month, Brandi has to receive an infusion ofantibodies to bolster her immune system. The infusion takes eighthours, but without it she would be vulnerable to any virus. Shewill have to take the infusions indefinitely.

“The main reason (I’m not going back to school) for me, though,is that when I went to school everyone had to treat me differentlyto make allowances for my illness. I don’t want to return to that,”she said.

Instead, Brandi plans to take her GED in 3-6 months and seek acareer as a masseuse, working primarily with physical therapypatients.

“It took a lot of people to get me here, and I just want to helpsome others get better,” she said.