Gaylene at the Bethungra Olde School T-house. Photo: Christopher Tan.

After Gaylene Crabtree suffered a few miscarriages, doctors had learnt it was her blood type fighting against her husband’s blood type.

She was then treated for asthma and emphysema symptoms until she asked for a blood test upon having her son, which they had picked up on 1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Disease (A1ADD).

This is a lung disease similar to emphysema but with complication and it will eventually destroy her lungs. It’s a slow and progressive disease which, Gaylene describes her lungs as swiss cheese with holes collecting oxygen, and her lungs not letting it back out into the bloodstream.

Eventually she will need transplants.

Gaylene is in her fourth year of a five-year trial at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and at the end of this year doctors will assess to see if the medication has been effective or not.

She feels like it has not helped a lot and she would rather have the transplant sooner than later due to the factor of her age.

Garry is Gaylene’s husband, dear friend and carer and he drives her to all her appointments and clinical trials, son Jess and Garry have seen her being on drips previously for up to three hours each week.

Besides emotional costs, financially each visit adds as a burden to the Crabtrees and a Go Fund Me Page was initiated by close friends, staff from Murrumbidgee Health, and Gaylene herself.

With more than $5,000 raised at the moment, which is half of the goal, the money will go towards vital services and treatment for Gaylene’s condition.

Medication over the years go up to $1,000 and this figure doubles after transplant.

It will also help fund the Gaylene Crabtree Foundation, a foundation in Gaylene’s honour to help other people with chronic disease after she passes.

This includes the accommodation at St Vincent’s and support to people living with the impact of an advanced chronic disease in the Wagga and regional communities and those who are not able to afford or source for support in their own locality.

Additionally, many are unaware of A1ADD and the Gaylene Crabtree Foundation and Facebook page helps educate and bring awareness to the disease as Gaylene advocates and documents her journey.

This year in May, Gaylene tried organising a fundraiser event titled “Sing Your Lungs Out” but this was cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

Now scheduled for 2021 at the Illabo Showgrounds, it will feature the great “Paul Kelly” blues guitarist and an accompanied band.

Activities and food on the day will help raise much needed funds.

This will be advertised on the Go Fund me page soon.

The Crabtrees bought the Bethungra Olde School T-house building over 12 years ago and doctors have encouraged her to keep working to have a focus.

Gaylene said she’s been able to stay positive because of the great support she has around her.

“Some days are better than others, but I just try and put on a brave face. I have a supportive and beautiful family as well as three lovely staff on a Sunday,” she said.

“The hospital [St Vincent’s] has been my second family ever since I was first diagnosed and will be until the day I pass away.”

The Gaylene Crabtree Foundation is currently selling raffle tickets in various businesses and donations can be made to the Foundation’s account which is stated on the Facebook page.

Multiple prizes will be drawn on December 11 at the Xmas Morning Tea, Bethungra Olde School T-house.

Gaylene would like to thank all community members and doctors and nurses that has supported her throughout, but especially St Vincent’s team leader Lisa Singleton and head of surgery Dr Monique Malouf.

Christopher Tan