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Justin McCoy (Posted On: Friday, April 04, 2008)

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Life changes quickly.  That statement is really just supposed to be a cliché.  For the McCoy family it became a hard cold fact, all too quickly and they are reaching out to the community for our help.

The high school year started out normally for Justin McCoy.  He was a teenager enjoying what everyone says are supposed to be the best years of a persons life.  Justin was playing football and in looking forward to what the high school year would bring and a snowboarding season at the mountain.

Then, things started to change for Justin.  He had developed asthma, and started taking treatment.   Then in December he started feeling weaker.  Everyone gets tired once and a while and needs a few days rest from their regular schedule.  But Justin just couldn’t get the energy back that he obviously had during the football schedule.

A trip to the Doctor became necessary.  The Doctor decided that Justin should see a specialist, and arrangements were made for an appointment in Toronto.  Before that appointment though things got worse and Justin was rushed to Hospital in February.

What had started out as the inconvenience of being tired too often had suddenly turned into a battle for Justin’s life.  Things got progressively worse, and then Justin and his parents got a shock no one could be prepared for.  Justin’s heart was failing, and there was nothing that could be done to make him better.

In six short months Justin McCoy had gone from a healthy, athletic, vibrant teenager to a young man who wasn’t sure if he make it to Valentines Day.

Then almost as quickly as things spiraled out of control against Justin, he caught a break and things turned around.  On February 13th the family was told that Justin would need a new heart to survive.  On February 14th, that surgery was being done.  On March 3rd, Justin returned home and is now on the road to recovery.

“We really thought we were going to lose Justin that day”, says his mother Lori. “Then while we were sitting with the hospital people learning about the process, we got word that a possible donor had been found.  It all happened so fast we didn’t have time to take it in.”

Lori met with the media on Monday, in the cafeteria of C.C.I. flanked by Justin’s teammates from the Fighting Owls football team, and Justin’s Aunt; Cathy Sholtz.

Cathy told the media of the perilous journey Justin and the family had been through in the past several months, and about the struggle that was still ahead.  Even with what is called the best health care system in the world, the family will face a financial burden as Justin recovered.

Cathy estimates that the family will spend around 8 thousand dollars in just the next few months.  The recovery process for Justin involves several trips to Toronto, and even overnight stays for the family.  The costs will pile up quickly.

A small committee has banded together to try and help the family.  Doug Gage, Doug Measures and Trevor McKean and Cathy Sholtz have opened an account to collect donations. They say they will also work on a few other fundraising ideas over the next few months.

Justin’s father is a self-employed contractor, who along with his wife, has been focusing on their son’s battle for the past several months.  He hasn’t been able to carry out his business.  Like many self-employed people they don’t have a benefits package that could help deal with the problem.  The committee is hoping the community can help.

Justin returned home on March 3rd, and according to his mother is getting stronger everyday.  The battery of tests that Justin goes through to monitor how his body is adapting to the new heart is understandably tiring, but Lori says Justin is determined.

“Justin is a kid with focus”, she told the media.  “He has determination and he has plans for the future.”  Justin will have to redo some classes, obviously unable to return to school this semester.  But his mom says he is up to the challenge.

To show his determination Justin went into the school himself in late March to pick his classes for September.   Things will be different for Justin when he returns to school.  There won’t be a final year of C.C.I. Football as the days of contact sports are over.  But nonetheless, Graduation Day will no doubt be an emotional one for the McCoy family.

Understandably, Lori had to pause a few times during the media conference as the emotion welled up, especially when she talked about the Organ Donor Program.  Through tears she said; “My son wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the program.  We really thought we were going to lose him that night.” 

“There aren’t enough words to say what we think about the Organ Donor Program”, she continued, “we are incredibly thankful for the generosity of the family that saved our son.”

Lori was asked what they know about the donor, but because of confidentiality rules the people they most want to talk to, they may never meet.   “We can write a letter about our gratitude and our feelings, and the hospital will pass it on to the donor family, but we don’t know who they are.   We will definitely be sitting down to write that letter once everything settles down, but we want them to have time to deal with their loss.  We still are dealing with lots ourselves.”

The family does know that the heart Justin received on Valentines Day was a young healthy heart, and they think that is part of the reason why Justin’s strength seems to be returning so quickly. 

Justin and his family have also made a donation.  Justin’s failed heart will be subjected to tests to try and explain what happened in the past six months.  “We may never know for sure”, says Lori.  “We hope they can find a way to prevent another family from going through what Justin has gone through.”

The committee that is organizing the fundraising effort has opened an account to collect the funds to help with the expenses.   Make cheques payable to “Justin McCoy” the cheques can be mailed to 4-115 First Street, Suite 513, Collingwood, ON, L9Y 4W3.  For more information about the fundraising campaign contact Catherine Sholtz; or Doug Measures;



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