HUDSON — For Jan McManus, good food has always been a part of good living.
"I love to bake, cookies especially," she said with a smile. "I always enjoy family meals with my mom, my brothers and sisters, and social dinners with my friends."
For the past few months, however, McManus, 54, has drawn most of her nourishment from an intravenous bag. Two years ago she was diagnosed with gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach) and gastric motility syndrome, conditions that made it impossible for her to keep food down. She had her stomach removed completely, replaced by a small pouch created from a part of her small intestine. Then this also malfunctioned, and doctors told her that she would need a massive transplant operation to receive a new stomach, pancreas and small bowel.
"The doctors say I could live on my intravenous pack for years, but I don't want to," said McManus, who sips coffee and takes bites of food without swallowing, just to remember the taste. "I want to eat. I want to swim and travel again. I want to get back to my normal life."
In order to accomplish this, McManus will have to undergo a $1 million operation. Although her health insurance will cover the transplant itself, McManus will need extensive followup care. And every day for the rest of her life, she will need to take anti-rejection medications that could cost from $2,000 to $5,000 per month.
McManus has made some new friends in her fight to preserve her health, though. A fund in her name has been established at the National Foundation for Transplants, a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise money for transplant-related expenses. Zim Zari's of Trinity, her family's favorite restaurant, will hold a fundraiser for her next week.
"Even though I can't eat that much when I go to Zim Zari's, I still like to go to spend time with friends," McManus said. "We asked the owners if they ever hosted fundraisers, and they said they did for worthy causes."
"They have been so kind to help us," added her mother, Gloria McManus, 80.
Gloria has helped support her daughter since 1985, when Jan suffered a debilitating on-the-job knee injury that ended her career as a children's occupational therapist. Through the years Jan McManus has adjusted to a life of limited physical activities, including swimming and needlework. She also likes to work on the computer and spend time with family and friends, and to help take care of the McManus' family dogs, Ginger and Bella. This new health challenge has provided additional limitations to the most basic daily activities.
Now that she's on the transplant list, it could take anywhere from three months to a year before McManus gets the operation she needs.
"I'm looking forward to my new life," she said. "I just wonder what it will be."
"It will be good," Gloria assured her daughter with a smile.