Dying To Be Insured: Nicki's Story
She fought to have a life-saving surgery done here at home. The I-Team helped Nicki Cyrak win that battle. Now she's fighting for survival after a double lung transplant. Video by tmj4.comvideo
WAUWATOSA - Nicki Cyrak is surrounded by family and friends as she recovers from a double lung transplant. They are able to be with her because she fought to have the surgery close to home.
"I think it definitely helps and makes me want to get out of here sooner. Makes me want to get better and see them soon," Nicki told reporter Lauren Leamanczyk just two weeks after the surgery.
Nicki has cystic fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. She learned she'd need a transplant earlier this year.
Her insurance company told her she'd have to have the surgery at Loyola Hospital in Chicago.
Nicki couldn't believe it. She'd spend her whole life working with the doctors and nurses at Froedtert Hospital here in Wisconsin.
The I-Team first told Nicki's story as she fought the insurance company for the right to have the transplant at the hospital she felt gave her a better chance of survival.
"This one thing I wasn't going to let stop me," she said. "This is my life. I'm going to fight as hard as I can."
After the I-Team story, the insurance company finally agreed to let Nicki have the transplant at Froedtert. Meanwhile an anonymous donor told her he'd pay for the out of network costs.
The surgery was a success. Just two weeks later, Nicki is already noticing the difference. "Being able to just take a deep breath without coughing. Walking without stopping. Doing two flights of stairs." These are things she hasn't been able to do in years.
Nicki's hospital room is now filled with cards, pictures and balloons. She chokes up when she talks about all the support she's received.
Nicki is also grateful to the team at Froedtert, who she thinks of as family.
But, her most heartfelt emotions are saved for the family of the donor who gave her a second chance at life.
"It's the best gift I've ever been given," she says through tears. Nicki vows to make the gift worthwhile.
Nicki has a long recovery ahead of her that will include frequent hospital visits and dozens of prescriptions. She has set up a CaringBridge page to update supporters on her recovery. It also contains information for those who would like to help with her mounting medical expenses.