Get Breaking News

Enter your email address to sign up.

Receive special offers from

Joy Cook, left, and her friend Jenn Weaver at Disney World.

Originally published: 2013-09-25 14:56:23
Last modified: 2013-09-25 15:04:03

Local double-lung transplant survivor goes to Disney World

Caroline Harris / (

More than 20 years ago, when diagnosed with a terminal illness at age 7, Joy Cook wanted to visit Disney World. Joy, a Heaton native, and her parents Keith and Judy Cook, applied to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill her wish while she was still healthy enough to enjoy the trip. Unfortunately, Joy was turned down. Even though cystic fibrosis was fatal, she was not very sick yet. Judy said that being turned down came as a big disappointment.

“To be honest, I was surprised because kids with cystic fibrosis usually get their wishes. We literally couldn’t afford anything like that with her hospital bills. We thought that would be our one chance; our only chance for Joy to get to go. At the time I thought, ‘she’s not in danger now, but when she’s really sick, she’s not going to enjoy it.’ It was real disappointing. I was thinking it would nice to do something fun with our kids instead of being in the hospital all the time,” Judy said.

Cystic fibrosis is a disorder that leads to chronic lung infection. Eventually, the lungs become too diseased to function and a double lung transplant is necessary. Living with CF requires a daily routine of medical treatment, including physical therapy, medication and a long list of ‘do’s and don’ts.’ Fifty years ago, children diagnosed with cystic fibrosis did not live past infancy. With advances in medicine, today someone with CF can live well into their 40s and 50s.

Joy decided from that young age when she was diagnosed to take charge of her health. She wanted to sort out her daily dose of pills by herself, without her mom’s help. That force of will led her to defy the odds and become a kid with CF who stayed healthy up until college.

Joy was in and out of the hospital her entire childhood. On top of dealing with the daily demands of living with cystic fibrosis, Joy worked hard to graduate from Avery County High School (2003) on time, despite several long stays in the hospital, all while maintaining a GPA high enough to get into UNC-Chapel Hill.

With your health working against you, hard work and determination can only take you so far. While enrolled at UNC, her health began to decline. Her lung function grew worse and worse. She had to take breaks when walking to classes. When she was 21, her lungs finally gave out and she had to be hospitalized. She stayed in the hospital through Thanksgiving, through her 22nd birthday in December and through Christmas. At that point, doctors told the Cooks that a double lung transplant was Joy’s only option if she was going to live. On Dec. 29, after a 12-hour surgery, Joy received the gift of life with a new set of lungs. Joy gradually made a full recovery, becoming healthier than she had ever been, enabling her to begin a career in public health, become a homeowner and be active in the children’s ministry at her church.

To read the complete story, please pick up a copy of your hometown newspaper, The Avery Journal-Times, available at almost 100 locations in Newland, Banner Elk, Crossnore, Spruce Pine and Roan Mountain, Tenn. To subscribe to The Avery Journal-Times, please call (828) 733-0401 or click to