Homebound cystic fibrosis patient seeks outside contact

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 18, 2000

Cystic fibrosis patient Christy Jarrett sits in her room. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

All Christy Jarrett wants for Christmas this year is a computer linked to the Internet, and while that doesn’t set her apart from many 24-year-olds, her reason does.

“I’m home all day and it will give me something to do,” said the diabetes and cystic fibrosis patient whose illnesses have kept her confined to her home since she was a teen-ager.

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Cystic fibrosis is a chronic lung disease that also causes digestive disorders. Like most sufferers, Jarrett is extremely vulnerable to infection.

“She stays in most of the time, and that’s why we’re trying to get her a computer to have something to do,” said her mother, Linda Johnson.

Financially strapped as a single mother of three, Johnson has sought help to make her daughter’s wish come true.

The owners of Check Cashers and More, where Johnson has worked for two years, are asking customers to “buy” a Christmas tree ornament for $2. The proceeds go to the computer fund. The name of the donor is painted on the ornaments, which are hung on a tree at the business office at 3427 Halls Ferry Road.

“It’s really great,” Jarrett said of the help and support she is getting from the owners and workers at Check Cashers.

Amy Dale, manager of Check Cashers and More, said employees also will have a bake sale and pictures with Santa Claus on Friday, also to raise money for the fund.

“We’re just trying to make her Christmas wish come true,” Dale said.

The Pecan Ridge Shell station at 1498 Freetown Road has also joined the effort by displaying donation boxes and asking customers to give.

Cystic fibrosis, or CF as it is known, is caused by an inherited genetic defect and is not contagious. It is passed down by parents who carry the gene, but may not have the disease.

Symptoms include persistent coughing, wheezing, pneumonia and excessive appetite but poor weight gain.

Many people with cystic fibrosis require frequent hospitalization and the continuous use of antibiotics, enzyme supplements and other medication. In 2000 alone, Jarrett, who was diagnosed with the disease when she was 2, has been hospitalized 10 times with pneumonia and other ailments.

About 30,000 people in the United States have the disease, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. About one in 31 people carries the gene.

Jarrett, who was forced to withdraw from Vicksburg High School when she was 16 after the disease began attacking her liver, spine and pancreas, undergoes a daily regiment of four breathing treatments, two shots of insulin, a shot of vitamin K twice a week and more than 15 prescription pills four times a day.

Being a virtual prisoner in her own home, Jarrett is hoping to contact the outside world on the Internet.

“Maybe I can find someone else in the United States that has CF,” Jarrett said.

She said she knew one other person with the disease, but he died last year. The life expectancy is just under 30 years.

Until she can get a computer, Jarrett continues to reach friends and family on the telephone and watches television at her home she shares with her mother in the Culkin community.

Her outlook is optimistic. “Lately I’ve been feeling good,” she said. “I haven’t been in the hospital in a while.”