BEAUFORT, CARTERET COUNTY - As the holidays approach, 17-year-old Allie Cayton of Beaufort said she's most thankful to have another chance at life.
"I was always the type like if I wanted something I was going to go for it. So now it's just the same thing. I've had a transplant but now I just have to work hard and make my lungs stay healthy," She said
Allie's sophomore year of high school started out like many other students'. She played the clarinet in the East Carteret Marching Band, and was on the swim team. But last April a mysterious virus attacked Allie's lungs making those everyday activities impossible.
"She didn't feel well at all and she started running a temperature and then she started saying she couldn't breathe," Allie's mother Donna Cayton said.
She said in a matter of days the virus destroyed Allie's lungs.
"Test after test, question after question. They checked for all kinds of flu's, all types of bacteria and nothing was showing up. But every time they did an x-ray you could see these white clouds moving up her lungs," Donna Cayton said.
After going to four different hospitals in five days, she knew something had to be done.
"I really just sat there and tried to keep my faith and prayed, and remembered the good times and how much I wanted her to stay here with me. But if it meant her suffering for the rest of her life then I was willing to let her go," Donna Cayton said.
Doctors at Duke Medical Center put Allie on life support and induced a coma to allow her lungs to get better.
"In Allie's situation it was her life. If they turned the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine off she was going to die," Donna Cayton said.
After being in a coma for three weeks doctors decided if Allie could wake-up and walk then they'd add her to the lung transplant list.
"At that point we had a plan you know, she had stayed here and stayed alive for these three or four weeks for a reason," Donna Cayton said.
Just two days after Allie was added to the list she got the call that saved her life.
"I guess it was just meant to be," Allie said.
After 10 hours of surgery Allie had a new lease on life with a new set of lungs. Her mother said if it wasn't for the dedicated doctors at Duke her daughter would not be alive today.
"It's just been a real eye opener for all of us," she said.