Local woman's journey on organ transplant waitlist drastically impacted by COVID-19

These days many of us are feeling isolated, lonely, worried about our health, and dealing with the anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of these times. These are emotions that one veteran and mother said she knows all too well, as she waits for a life-saving organ transplant.

COVID-19 has drastically affected the already agonizing wait.

Imagine not being able to hold or touch your 4-year-old son for over seven months, having no idea when you’ll see him again. That’s Joyce Brooks’ reality.

“I believe that I have cried more than I ever had in life, but you have good days, and you have to put things in perspective. Everyone doesn’t have this opportunity and chance so I’m definitely blessed,” said Brooks

Brooks has been isolated from her family since February, living in a hotel, just waiting.

“You’re just waiting for the call, you’re wondering when the phone rings. Okay is that them? Is it time? Is it now?” she said.

Brooks always knew she’d have to be away from her family in Alaska to be close to the transplant center, but she had no way of knowing a pandemic would hit weeks after she arrived, severely delaying her timeline-and essentially leaving her a prisoner to her hotel room.

"I was reading somewhere that isolation affects your nervous system and I definitely can, I can see how that’s true because honestly, it can take you somewhere where you don’t want to go, being alone," said Brooks. 

Brooks has pulmonary fibrosis and needs a double lung transplant to stay alive. Her condition already puts her at risk and if she were to get COVID-19, that could also even further delay her transplant, so she has to take isolation very seriously.

“I try to get outside on good days. Some days are better than others, emotionally. I journal a lot, which has helped me," said Brooks.

What she is dealing with is already incredibly difficult and emotional, the anticipation, the worry if the transplant will come in time. And then there’s thinking about the donor.

“It’s a very hard thing to think about. You don’t even want to say the words. Because you’re able to live but somebody else isn’t. You’re living because they’re not, nobody really wants that to be their reality,” she said.

Brooks tries to focus on the love she already has for that person who will potentially save her life.

“My words just cannot express the love, the act of love that they’ve shown to be a donor because I’m just so grateful.

While her situation is unique to many of us, in many ways she understands better than anyone the fears that the pandemic has brought on so many. She said her advice is to think of the end result when times are tough now. To think of how wonderful it will be when it’s over, and how worth it to have saved so many lives.

“Strengthen yourself up to love yourself enough to show love to someone else," said Brooks. 

COVID-19 isn’t the only obstacle Brooks is facing everyday. Statistically, even though minorities make up 60% of the waitlist, they’re likely to have to wait longer to get a lifesaving transplant, according to LifeCenter Northwest.

Brooks said she hopes to be able to encourage people to register to be donors, especially those in the minority communities.