Any day now Elisha Kulpa and her fiance Jason Benner could get the call they have been waiting for - a donor has been found.
Elisha has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which causes mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract, and other areas of the body. Because of this, Elisha's lung disease has progressed to the point where she needs a double lung transplant.
In order to offset the costs of the procedure and after-care, Elisha's family and friends have planned benefit for her on Sept. 22.
Elisha's disease has never held her back, but the more frequent hospital visits have become a reality for her.
Jason, in a phone interview, said when he met Elisha in high school, she needed very little treatment, however since she turned 21, the hospital visits have become more frequent.
"It started with a hospital visit once a year and then every six months, then it was every four months and now it is once a month for about a week at a time. That is just for lung treatments and doesn't even include ER visits," he said.
Elisha and Jason are preparing for even more hospital visits and even further away after Elisha undergoes her double lung transplant. Elisha said the initial trip to NYC-Presbyterian Hospital for the surgery last one to two weeks.
In the year after surgery she and Jason will have to return to the hospital as often as once a week, depending on her body's reaction to the transplant. She will also be put on a cocktail of 15 to 20 medications to suppress any reaction to the transplanted lungs.
While Elisha waits she does daily treatments with inhaled medications to open air ways as well as wearing a percussion vest which shakes the chest to free mucus from the lungs.
Elisha is a Dunkirk High School 2004 graduate. She also has a Bachelor's in psychology from the University at Buffalo and according to her mother, Kathy Penkaty, is a very brave person.
"She is the strongest person I know," she said. "... She never complains. She just wants to be treated like everyone else."
Jason agreed saying she is a "gentle soul."
Elisha has been on WDOE to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis, the most common chronic lung disease in children and young adults affecting 1 in 29 Americans, in addition to promoting the benefit. Jason said they are also advocating for organ donorship, because one donor can save up to 10 lives - one of which will soon be Elisha's.
The benefit is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 from 2 to 7 p.m. at the Dunkirk Moose Lodge, 296 Lake Shore Dr. E. and the public is encouraged to attend.
A ticket includes a chicken barbecue dinner with sides, dessert and drinks. There will be live music performed by Mood Swing featuring Danielle Rausa, a band from the Syracuse area. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and a basket raffle with dozens of baskets filled with everything from gifts to sports memorabilia.
Pre-sale tickets are available for $15 by calling Kathy at 680-1024 or Marion at 366-3845. Tickets at the door will be $20.
Jason described the event as gathering of friends and family before Elisha's surgery.
"We had hoped this benefit would do three things; first offset the costs of travel for Elisha's surgery and treatment, second keep our minds off the situation - which it has successfully done, and third to be an opportunity to see all of our friends and family before the surgery," he added.
Donations are also being accepted at M&T Bank with checks payable to the Friends of Elisha Kulpa. For more information go to www.journey2newlungs.com.