CORKERY – The global COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for every human on earth. For Corkery’s Brenda Coulter, the pandemic is another challenge to overcome as she deals with failing health and the frantic first steps of finding a new liver.

Coulter fell sick last June, just three months in to the start of the pandemic. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and Coulter was prescribed antibiotics. A few weeks later the antibiotics had little effect and her breathing issues slowly got worse.

A return to the hospital turned up something unexpected and has changed her small family unit forever.

“What they found was life-changing for our family,” Coulter’s 16-year-old son Joshua Tuepah told West Carleton Online from their McGee Side Road family home they share with Coulter’s 75-year-old dad Larry Coulter.

Doctors found out Coulter had Stage 4/End Stage Cirrhosis. The breathing problems she was having came from what is called ascites which is when fluid builds up in the body and the body can’t get rid of it naturally. It has to be drained out.

Coulter spent two weeks in hospital where she had 20 litres of toxic fluid drained from her stomach and another four litres from her lungs. She spent six weeks in the hospital from June to October.

“It’s quite a process to have your lungs and stomach drained,” Coulter told West Carleton Online last Friday (Jan. 22). “I couldn’t have visitors due to COVID-19. It was awful. It’s pretty limiting.”

Coulter quit smoking and drinking, and the 49-year-old is now on a very restricted diet to try to help keep fluid from building up. The health issues have played havoc with Coulter’s memory, her ability to speak, even her ability to think. She had to leave her job as a para-legal.

“The other day I went to the cupboard to get a mug for coffee and I found the apple juice,” Joshua said. “I said ‘mom, I found the juice you were looking for.’”

Joshua said the experience was eye-opening.

“At the time I didn’t really know how bad it was until I started to see it with my own eyes,” he said. “I want to help my mother.”

Coulter is beginning the process of getting on the waiting list to receive a new liver.

“I’m just starting my meetings with the transplant team next week,” Coulter said. “All the testing is done. I have had offers (for livers). There’s seven now. You have to see if they will match. I think that’s kind of nice.”

Joshua started a gofundme page on Jan. 18 to try to raise funds and awareness for Coulter as she battles what would be a challenging time in the best of circumstances. The page has raised $1,075 so far with all money going to help support the rising costs Coulter faces as she deals with her health issues while also being unemployed. Just starting the page has been a positive experience for Joshua.

“I was astounded by the support,” the All Saints Catholic High School student said. “Friends I haven’t talked to for years. One school mate came forward and offered her help in any way she could. We weren’t even really friends in school. Strangers have come out of nowhere.”

Coulter has also been reinvigorated by the support she has received so far.

“With COVID-19 you kind of lose faith in humanity,” she said. “But that’s not the case. Anything helps and the support has been heartwarming.”

If you would like to read more about Coulter’s health challenges or would like to consider donating to her cause, you can visit Joshua’s gofundme page here.