Alpha Stories

Published on Friday, March 9, 2018

Celebrating women: Caregiver Donna Thornton

Celebrating women:  Caregiver Donna Thornton

During Women’s History Month, we are featuring the stories of women who help make the Alpha–1 community great.

Donna and Kreg Thornton could not convince their primary care physician that Kreg’s breathing issues were not being caused by what their doctor called chronic asthma.

Donna and Kreg Thornton

It was not until a family vacation in 2009, when Kreg had great difculty breathing while trying to snorkel, that it dawned on them that the problem was very serious.

Donna saw an advertisement in a newspaper for an asthma screening event, so they went. Once there, the doctor agreed with them that it was not asthma. They were referred to a lung specialist, and Kreg was diagnosed with Alpha–1 and tested at 31% lung function. He was put on augmentation therapy.

After a year of having a nurse administer the infusions, they decided together that Donna would begin administering them. “I was given two lessons by the infusion nurse and was thrown into the fire. I hated poking him, but I did it. I felt the more I got involved, the more I was part of the process, and the better I could help others that were going through the same. We learned to lean on each other more. It brought us closer together,” says Donna.

Kreg had a lung transplant in late October 2016, but had issues with those lungs and had to be re-transplanted in January 2017.

Through the years they became active with both the Utah and Idaho Alpha–1 Support Groups.

They realized the importance of virtual support early on. For both, it is important to be able to connect with other people because there are not very many Alphas in their area.

"Even though Alpha–1 affects people differently, it’s good to hear other’s perspectives that you can learn from,” explained Donna.

“A lot of my learning came from attending National Conferences and from sharing experiences with nurses and doctors in our area. Now many of them have learned about Alpha–1,” says Donna.

“Connect with a support group and connect with the caregivers in the Alpha–1 community. When Kreg was getting close to transplant, we would reach out to our caregiver friends to learn what to expect. And now, Kreg and I are Peer Guides and help new Alpha–1 friends who are on that same path,” she finished.

This story appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Alpha–1-To-One Magazine. Subscriptions are free.