Bound to her bed and struggling to breathe, Kailyn Gadsby’s mother, Susan, smiles in the face of adversity.
After years of searching for a diagnosis, having doctor after doctor tell her it was just a cold, the Brantford resident was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The disease is characterized by progressive scarring of the lungs, making it difficult for the lungs to expand, preventing oxygen from entering the bloodstream.
It is estimated that about 30,000 Canadians are currently living with pulmonary fibrosis. Six thousand more are diagnosed annually, according to the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.
Without a lung transplant – which Susan doesn’t qualify for – IPF can be fatal.
“She is one of the most selfless people I know and throughout all of this, she is the most positive, optimistic and happiest person,” Gadsby said. “People come to see her and expect to see her have given up, but she sits up and asks about you and wants to push you forward and see you do well.”
Her mother’s energy, compassion and strength have been an ongoing inspiration for Gadsby, who has vowed to do what she can to keep her mother’s legacy alive.
“It’s amazing the impact she has had on people’s lives and I want to have that same impact by giving people a voice,” Gadsby said.
The 23-year-old is currently working toward a master’s degree in speech language pathology at Western University. Her studies will get a boost thanks to the 2012 InterMune IPF Legacy Scholarship.
Gadsby is one of five Canadians chosen to receive $2,500 as part of the inaugural scholarship, presented by biotechnology company InterMune Canada Inc.
The scholarship is awarded to students who have excelled both academically and personally despite having a family member diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
“We recognize the challenges that students with an IPF family member must overcome to pursue their dreams and we commend the IPF Legacy Scholarship recipients for honouring the legacy of their loved ones,” said Rob Hamilton, InterMune Canada president and general manager. “We are grateful we can assist these students to achieve their aspiration of higher education.”
An independent committee of physicians and association partners from across Canada selected the students based on a one-page essay outlining how they plan on continuing the legacy of their family member.
“The IPF Legacy Scholarship program encourages family members of IPF patients to strive for academic and personal excellence,” said Dr. Charlene Fell, a respirologist at the University of Calgary and chair of the scholarship selection committee.
The $2,500 will help pay for one full semester of Gadsby’s tuition.
As a single mother raising two children, Susan always worked hard to support her family. But after her IPF diagnosis, she was unable to work and it has been difficult to offer Gadsby the extra help she needs to pay for school.
“Even though it’s a terrible disease that I have, this is a way I can give back to her,” Susan said. “(The scholarship) helped out, so a bit of a burden has been lifted.”
The scholarship will also help 20-year-old Paris resident Rosemary Crawford keep up her father Paul’s legacy.
A former millwright, Paul was diagnosed with IPF in March and is now required to use an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. He is currently awaiting a double lung transplant.
“He always has a positive outlook,” Crawford said. “Through this whole thing, he has been the most calm and most positive. He doesn’t complain or whine, he just thinks of us.”
Crawford, who is studying to become a registered nurse at McMaster University and Conestoga College, wants to carry on Paul’s positive outlook by helping people through her future career.
“My dad is a very hardworking man,” Crawford said. “I want to continue on in my career and let people know about the disease and carry on my dad’s legacy about hard work, caring and helping people.”