By Karen Murphy Corr, Contributor
Christmas has come early for an Abbotsford girl and her family.
Autumn Carlson, 12, who survived childhood leukemia, has received the double lung transplant she desperately needed.
The Abbotsford Middle School student and her mom, Sabrina, have been living at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) in Toronto for the last month as they waited for a transplant.
They got the call for a potential donor on Saturday afternoon and headed straight to the hospital.
Autumn and her mom then had to wait to find out if the donor was a match, while the health-care team at the Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) completed tests.
They learned early Sunday morning that there was indeed a match, and Autumn was prepped for surgery.
“The surgery, which took several hours, has been a success and Autumn is now recovering in the critical care unit,” Sabrina said.
She said she has mixed emotions that her daughter’s second chance at life comes as the result of another child’s death.
“My heart is so heavy for the sweet young boy who died and his family who have given my daughter and other children here today the gift of life,” she said.
“My heart hurts for his family as they grieve, and I am grieving with them. I hope it is a comfort to them that a part of him will live on in my daughter Autumn. They are my heroes and we can’t possibly express our gratitude for such a gift.”
Autumn will stay at Sick Kids for two to four weeks, depending on how her recovery goes.
She and her mother will then reside at RMH for a few months while Autumn undergoes intense physiotherapy.
When they are cleared to return to B.C., Autumn will be followed by BC Children’s Hospital and will return to Toronto for checkups two times a year.
Autumn was diagnosed with “severe lung disease” after developing an infection following a bone marrow transplant six years ago to treat the leukemia with which she had been diagnosed at age four.
The family had been told to be prepared to wait for up to two years for Autumn to receive a transplant, which was particularly hard for Autumn’s sister, who has Down syndrome and doesn’t fully understand the separation from her mom.
A GoFundMe account was started in August to help the family – dad Randy, sister Alyssa, 8, and brothers Nicholas, 17, and Anthony, 22 – with expenses related to the stay in Toronto.
Sabrina said the pair have been missing home.
“There is nothing like Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and being with my husband and Autumn’s siblings,” she said.
Sabrina said she would love to surprise Autumn with photos from B.C., especially the Lower Mainland and Abbotsford, during her long recovery.
She invites people to share photos on Instagram at @autumnsfightforlife or using the hashtag #AutumnsFightForLife.
Autumn’s journey can also be followed on Facebook (search “Autumn’s Fight for Life”), and the online fundraiser can be found by searching “Autumn’s Fight for Life” at gofundme.com.
– with files from Vikki Hopes