By Colin Foster
TROY — Some people want iPads for Christmas, others want toys, clothes or flat screen televisions.
As for Tiffany Stephens Greer, she just wanted the gift of a better life.
Tiffany, a 2001 Troy High School graduate, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis — a progressive, lifelong condition in which the glands that produce mucus, sweat and intestinal secretions do not function properly — when she was just sixth months old.
“The mucus in the body is like oil to an engine,” Tiffany’s mother Kim Hayes explained. “Instead of lubricating things all along through the system, (Cystic Fibrosis) plugs them up.”
The doctor originally told her family she had pneumonia, but all the symptoms she was experiencing just didn’t match up. As Tiffany’s condition worsened, the family decided to change doctors.
“We had all these indicators going on, so we finally changed doctors and they gave the correct diagnosis … and our lifelong battle began,” Hayes said.
Tiffany, now 31, was in relatively good health as a child, but her childhood was far from normal. She was typically hospitalized for four weeks out of a year and had to receive respiratory treatments three times a day.
But Cystic Fibrosis is not like a common cold or the flu, it never goes away. Once Tiffany, who has a 10-year old son named Dylan, reached her early 20s, the disease had kicked into full gear making it increasingly harder for Tiffany to do the simple things normal people do.
“The disease always progresses,” Hayes said. “Once she got into her 20s (everything got worse). The life expectancy is 25, so she has kind of beat the odds to this point.”
“Tiffany was down to about 17-percent lung capacity. Simple things like taking a walk — she couldn’t do that,” said Gail McCreight, a family friend.
But her life changed for the better Dec. 11.
After four years of being on a waiting list for a lung transplant, Tiffany finally received the surgery at Cleveland Clinic. The surgery lasted eight hours, with her family sitting in the waiting room the whole time. Hayes said the family didn’t sleep for about 36 hours, but once the surgery concluded, it was a big weight off their shoulders — and a Christmas present that couldn’t be matched.
“We’ve been waiting so long for this to happen, it was like completely off our radar,” Hayes said. “It just seemed like it came out of the blue. It had been so long, we just kind of just didn’t know if it would ever happen.
“When they put her on the list four years ago, they indicated she probably didn’t have more than a year to live. She has the heart of a warrior and she has managed to hold stable.”
Tiffany is currently at Cleveland Clinic recovering, but she may be able to get released by the end of next week. When she is released, however, she will have to stay 15 minutes away from Cleveland Clinic just in case further complications arise.
Though Tiffany still has Cystic Fibrosis in other parts of her body, her lungs are finally clear, which will give her an opportunity to enjoy all the things in life she has missed out on.
“For the first time in many, many years, Tiffany will be able to take a deep, full breath of air — climb stairs, run in the park, play with her son and enjoy all the everyday thing we take for granted,” McCreight said.
“The lung transplant gives her an opportunity for an extended life … and one with much better quality,” Hayes said.
Tiffany’s family is traveling from the area to stay with her. The Cleveland Clinic doesn’t provide any type of short-term housing, meaning the family will be spending time in a hotel for as long as needed. To find out how you can help Tiffany, visit www.GoFundMe.com.