February 2, 2009


‘Oh yeah, I can do that’

Bowling match marks woman’s liver, lung transplant anniversary

TransplantJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Patti Caulkins-Prince of Utica talks about how she is an organ donor and an organ transplant recipient, wearing a Donate Life advocacy pin to show her support. Prince, a Homer native, received a double lung and liver transplant in February 2007. She celebrated the anniversary Saturday in Homer.

Staff reporter

Patti Caulkins-Prince celebrated the two-year anniversary of her liver and double lung transplant by bowling Saturday at Cort Lanes in Cortlandville.
“Before the transplant, I hadn’t been bowling in five years,” Prince said, noting she had not been able to breathe very well.
A 1999 graduate of Homer High School, Prince was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 6 months old and received the transplant in January 2007.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary condition that affects the entire body, but it most heavily affects the lungs which can be severely damaged over time by thick mucus secretions.
Before the surgery, Prince weighed 113 pounds, coughed constantly and needed an oxygen tank to help her breathe.
“A lot of my nurses didn’t recognize me at first, and even my doctor said he wouldn’t have known who I was if I hadn’t told him I was coming,” Prince said in describing an August visit to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio where she received the transplant.
Now 28, Prince is not ashamed to wear shirts that show the scars from her surgery or tell people that she weighs 152 pounds.
“The only thing I don’t wear is a bikini because I have a bloated stomach from the cystic fibrosis,” Prince said. “I don’t want people thinking I need to lose weight, when really I need to gain weight.”
After finishing a business administration degree at TC3 in 2002, Prince moved to Yorkville, about a mile west of Utica, and stays at home to take care of her 3-year-old son, Brady.
“We just take it one day at a time, one week at a time,” said her husband, Nathaniel. “This could still end at any time.”
Because Prince is still susceptible to infections, she still needs to wash her hands frequently and either wear a mask or stay 3 feet from people when in public.
But the hardest part of the transition was getting used to not doing so many chores, Nathaniel said.
“Before I was doing everything, now I don’t have to do as much,” he said, noting that he took care of Prince and Brady in addition to doing all the household chores and working at the natural gas company Dominion.
“The stress load is a lot lighter,” he added.
This year, Prince and her family traveled to Seattle and New York City, which was more enjoyable since Prince is able to walk farther without becoming short of breath.
“It’s a lot easier to travel without the oxygen tank and all the IVs,” Prince said. “Now, when people mention an upcoming birthday or event, I think, ‘Oh yeah, I can do that,’ whereas I was too sick before.”
In her spare time, Prince plays the flute, crochets and connects with other cystic fibrosis patients through Internet forums.
Prince also wears several pins and ribbons to promote organ donation and plans to hand out pamphlets about the issue at the Heart and Lung Walk in Utica this summer.
“I’m an organ donor myself, even though I have no idea what I could give,” Prince said. “Why would I not be an organ donor after someone helped me?”
In addition to bowling, Prince and 30 of her friends and family celebrated her two-year anniversary with a cake decorated with a green ribbon, which symbolizes organ donation.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the next year,” Nathaniel said.


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