Greencastle-Antrim teacher awaits lung transplant

Sarah Foose and Mallory Pohl, teachers at Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School, show the Team Foose shirt which will be for sale at two fundraisers this spring. The monies will help with medical expenses for Foose, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis.

A new life is one phone call away.

Sarah Foose, a Greencastle-Antrim School District teacher, is on the waiting list for a double-lung transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Waynesboro resident taught third grade, and this year switched to Instructional Support/Gifted Coordinator. Recently on leave because she just can’t breathe well enough, Foose is determined that status is temporary.

“When I get my new lungs, I’m walking right back through those doors.”

Foose has Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes lung infections and gradually shuts down the ability to breathe. She turns 35 in April, the average lifespan of a CF patient.

“I’m ready to beat that one,” she declared.

As a child, Foose suffered frequent colds, allergies and asthma attacks. At least that is what her parents, Bev and Gordie Foose, thought. But when she coughed all night long, every night, her mom began to suspect it was something more. They took her to Johns Hopkins when she was six.

Immediately the pulmonologist taught the couple how to perform percussion therapy. The hour-long chest treatment mornings and evenings would loosen the mucus buildup in Foose’s lungs, so she could cough it out through her airways and inhale more deeply. The clearing also reduced the chance of infections and helped her stay healthy.

Bev Foose took over the daily duties and Foose finally slept through the night. Even though she now wears a vest which performs the vibrations, mom comes over to do the right lung each evening.

“It gives her peace of mind,” Foose said.

She was active as a child and into college. From age 9 through high school, she was the unofficial poster chilld of the CF Foundation. She had written to Jim Palmer, the Baltimore Orioles great she had seen at a recognition event, and he called her personally. Supportive of the foundation, he invited her to a celebrity golf tournament, which continued for years.

“I didn’t see CF as holding me back until my mid-20s,” Foose said. “Then it became real.”

She had to take IV infusions of antibiotics because scar tissue had built up in her lungs. Four years ago she was hospitalized for two weeks after surgery. Since then, her condition has deteriorated.

Foose was excited that the drug Orkambi, which received FDA approval last summer, was finally available.

“It was the medicine we prayed for my whole life, a miracle drug,” she said.

Unfortunately, she was one of the minority for whom it did not work. Her lungs were too damaged. She was put on oxygen in November and wondered ‘what now?’ The doctor said it was time to consider a transplant.

Unable to work by that point, Foose set aside her apprehensions.

“For the first time, CF prevented me from doing what I wanted to do. I needed to accept needing a transplant. Now it’s an excitement.”

Team Foose

Foose’s friends and family banded together to form Team Foose. They are conducting fundraisers to help with out-of-pocket expenditures for the $500,000 procedure. All monetary donations labeled “In Honor of Team Sarah F.” go to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), which in turn pays for her medical bills. If any is left over, Foose intends to earmark it for another woman.

She and her spouse adopted an infant, Alexis, who is now 6-years-old.

“I don’t want another mom to go through this,” she said. “It’s scary.”

Fellow teacher Mallory Pohl is part of the leadership crew organizing events to help Foose. The school district has been very supportive, and the community has also responded.

“It is wonderfully overwhelming having people contacting us, asking to help,” Pohl said. “My favorite part is having people tell what Sarah means to them.”

Team Foose is selling T-shirts showing a pair of healthy lungs, and the directive to ‘just breathe’. A sports memorabilia auction will be held April 3 at John Allison Public House. It will feature a silent auction; visit by Al Bumbry, former Orioles outfielder, for autographs and pictures; and raffles for packages from area businesses.

Another silent auction will be at Rolling Mills Tavern in Waynesboro May 1. It will also raffle many items and have the T-shirts and CF bracelets for sale. The proceeds will go through COTA.

Team Foose formed because the faculty decided “we need to get Foose better,” said Pohl. Different activities in the schools were designed to give her encouragement.

Elementary principal Chad Stover echoed the sentiment.

“Sarah has had a tremendous impact with her classes,” he said. “Her former students ask about her often. She was a creative teacher. We can’t wait to get her back.”

When the phone finally rings, Foose has enough time to get a shower, and then has to head to Baltimore. Recovery includes 14 days in the hospital, then three months in her sterilized home.

Then she can breathe and teach and her daily routine will be different.

“Two hours of therapy will be replaced by four pills,” she said.