Community Helps as Family Battles Two Illnesses

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- A family on the south side of Des Moines is going through more than many of us deal with in an entire lifetime. A Des Moines group known for hosting monthly benefits is stepping up to help.

Heather Hamilton, 23, has Cystic Fibrosis. Doctors diagnosed her with the genetic lung disease when she was three and a half months old. Mom Christine Cordaro says, "It causes thick sticky mucus in the lungs, and eventually the lungs become infected so many times that there's scar tissue and it basically renders the lungs useless."

Heather developed diabetes because of the disease when she was 14. She had to start using oxygen a few years later. She says, "In my sense, I think I've had a pretty normal journey until I was 16, and that's when I started going into the hospital more."

She got a double lung transplant when she was 22 and enjoyed nine healthy months, but her body started rejecting the organs last fall. She says she doesn’t have the strength to go through testing for another lung transplant. "In May, they said what do you want us to do? We can try home health care, and that's where we're at right now."

Her mom says, "Maintain quality of life for her as long as we can. She's amazing. She's kind of the rock. We all fall apart, she keeps us all going, so we're lucky."

Heather requires care around the clock, which her mom provides, despite her own difficult diagnosis. Cordaro says, "In February, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer."

Cordaro had surgery to remove a lump in March. She'll finish her 16 weeks of chemotherapy treatments July 31. She says, "Truthfully, the cancer is just an annoyance to me right now. I have so many other things going on. It just interrupts my trying to do the best for Heather."

The family isn't fighting alone. A group called Southside Cares is helping, with a fundraiser this weekend. Cordaro says, "It's an amazing group of people that really take care and seek out people in need."

The Des Moines group formed in 2007 to help people facing hardships by hosting regular benefits. All money raised goes to the family.

The benefit for Christine Cordaro is Saturday, July 19th. It's from 3 to 10 p.m. at the American Legion Hispanic Hall at 1511 South Union in Des Moines. The pasta dinner is $10. The band Humbled Soul will provide the entertainment. There will also be an auction and raffle. Southside Cares is a 501-C, so donations are tax deductible. Click here for more about the benefit and the group.


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