ALLY MUTNICK, SUMMER REPORTER
August 13, 2013
Only three days after a double lung transplant, Josie Nordman took off the oxygen mask that had helped her breathe for the last eight months. Her doctor was unsure, but she insisted. She walked a lap around a hall in the hospital breathing completely on her own.
“I was just crying,” the rising Communication junior said. “I was done with the oxygen. I was done. I never put it back on.”
Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was 4 months old, Nordman cannot remember the last time she could breathe as well as she can now.
After waiting eight months on a transplant list, Nordman is recovering from her life-saving surgery, which took place July 28 at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
The transplant was also exciting for Nordman’s family and friends, as well as the Northwestern community that over two quarters donated most of the $50,000 the Nordmans needed to cover the cost of the surgery.
Nicolle Nordman, Josie’s mother, posted photos and updates on Facebook so friends could follow the eight-hour surgery.
“When we first posted that they had lungs, I had five or six people call right away,” Nicolle Nordman said. “And Josie’s friends — a lot of them somehow got my number even though I don’t know how.”
Josie Nordman said she felt overwhelmed with support, receiving an outpouring of texts, messages and calls from friends wishing her luck when they heard she was going into surgery.
The news was especially thrilling to Chi Omega, said Samantha Brody, one of Nordman’s sisters in the sorority.
“I was just announcing it to everyone,” said Brody, a rising Weinberg senior. “It’s definitely been really awesome to see how excited everyone is.”
Nordman was already in the hospital with a lung infection when lungs became available for transplant. Her lung function was less than 16 percent and antibiotics were not helping. She said the lungs came at the right time.
Nordman said she could barely sleep the first two days after leaving the intensive care unit because she was too excited to have healthy lungs.
“Every time I would be like, ‘It’s four o’clock in the morning, I should really go to bed,’ I would sit back for a minute and just start thinking about everything I might get to do,” Nordman said. “I would be overwhelmed with emotion again.”
Nordman said she is recovering at her grandmother’s house in Park Forest, Ill., because it is quieter and cleaner than her family’s house in Homewood, Ill. Her immune system has been suppressed to avoid rejection of her new lungs, so she said she has to be diligent about staying healthy.
But Nordman hopes to return to school this fall and doctors have told her it is a reasonable goal. She said she wants to audition for plays, walk to class and hopefully ride again with NU’s equestrian team — activities she had to give up as her disease worsened.
Doctors and hospital staff tell Nordman her recovery is going very well. She has already visited her horse Loki twice.
When Nordman’s friend Jeff Sachs (Communication ’13) visited her after the surgery, he said she was glowing and he had never seen her look so healthy. Sachs helped organize fundraisers throughout the academic year with Lovers & Madmen, the theater company of which he and Nordman are a part.
The Nordmans still have $25,000 left to pay for the surgery, but Nicolle Nordman said she has been less stressed because so much of the medical expenses are already covered.
Sachs said he is sure the theater community will continue to raise the rest of the money for the Nordmans.
“We will all just be so excited to see her in the general auditions room,” Sachs said. “I have very little doubt that the fundraising will all come together. It was the lungs that were always the wild card.”