'They adore each other': The deadly bug that will keep these two siblings apart

Josh Dutton
News Reporter

A pair of Melbourne siblings living with cystic fibrosis could be kept apart by a bug which has seen one of them undergo life-saving surgery.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia recently, 18-year-old Claudia Coll’s father Peter said she has undergone a lung transplant after picking up Burkholderia cepacia or B. cepacia.

B. cepacia is a pathogen which causes immunodeficiency and pneumonia in people living with cystic fibrosis. It is believed she picked it up from dirt or mud as a child.

By getting this surgery, Claudia will also have to sacrifice time with her brother, who also has cystic fibrosis and the same bug.

While she recovers from the procedure, Peter said his daughter and son cannot be next to each other as the transplant weakens her immune system.

Peter told Yahoo News his daughter’s health began to deteriorate rapidly in the past few months.

Claudia Coll, 18, is receiving a lung transplant. She and her 13-year-old brother, Jordan, both have cystic fibrosis. Source: Supplied

“A month ago we were told by doctors at Melbourne’s Monash Children’s Hospital her lung function was below 30 per cent,” Mr Coll said.

“It was not getting better. We were given a life expectancy of three years.”

Things took a turn for the worse when last week when doctors told the Coll family the teen needed a lung transplant.

Antibiotics, which she has been on her whole life, were proving less effective against the bug.

She was taken to Monash Children’s Hospital before being transferred to The Alfred Hospital.

There, her father was told “the unthinkable”.

“I was told with the lungs she has she would have six weeks [to live], but if she gets worse that could change to six hours,” Mr Coll said. “I’m a mess.”

Claudia has been in and out of hospital her whole life. Source: Supplied

Friends of the Colls started a GoFundMe page. The family need money to care for their daughter as Mr Coll is the sole earner of the household.

He said his wife had been in and out of work over the years because Claudia has been hospitalised frequently.

In 2014, Claudia spent four months in hospital and one month in hospital every other year. 

Previously in 2012, Claudia had to have part of her right lung removed.

The Coll family also have a 13-year-old son, Jordan, who has cystic fibrosis along with two other children in their teens.

Unfortunately, he also has B. cepacia.

Father Peter Coll with daughter Claudia and wife Kate. Source: Supplied

‘They adore each other’

Jordan’s condition means if he comes in contact with Claudia while she recovers from her transplant she could die.

“It’s more in the early stages she could become septic as her immune system recovers,” Mr Coll said.

“With B. cepacia you never know what’s going to happen. We don’t know how long they could potentially be apart.

“They adore each other.”

Claudia with her boyfriend, Matt Ryan. Source: Supplied

Mr Coll hopes work done by both Monash and The Alfred Hospital on Claudia, in trying to contain the bug, might benefit Jordan.

“They’re going to try to bombard Jordan with antibiotics,” he said.

“The plan is as soon as Claudia is stable we eliminate Jordan’s B. cepacia but we’re not sure if doctors can.

“The Alfred doctors in the last 48 hours have done an amazing job keeping the superbug at bay in Claudia though.”

When Yahoo News asked Mr Coll about the logistics of keeping them apart during Claudia’s recovery, he said he was unsure how that would work or for how long they might need to be separated.

It could be months.

The siblings ‘adore each other’, according to their father. Source: Supplied

“We’ve basically said, ‘How do we do that? How do we have two premises?’” Mr Coll said.

“If it gets to that it’s something we will probably have to look at.”

For the time being, Mr Coll is just hoping his daughter fully recovers from the transplant.

“She’s our world. People gravitate towards her,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a daily assessment and I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen.

“We’re optimistic though.”

To find out more about cystic fibrosis, click here.

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