School bands play for Scarborough lung transplant patient

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SCARBOROUGH — Ashley Drew is a flute and saxophone player. She is a composer and conductor. She is a runner.

She is also awaiting a double lung transplant.

Drew, 23, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a child and has been living with disease her entire life. Despite a constant battle with lung infections and digestive problems, she has excelled at nearly everything she’s done.

Drew was a track star at Scarborough High School and recently graduated from the University of Maine with a music education degree, both of which have required her to push the limits of her lung capacity.

Until very recently, she has come out ahead.

However, this winter Drew was exposed to a virus and spent nearly two months in the hospital. At one point she was unconscious for a week. She said she doesn’t remember 12 days while she was being treated for the severe infection. She had a tracheotomy and breathed through a hole in her neck for a while.

“My lungs were already in a steady decline at that point,” she said. “The virus destroyed what little I had left.”

It was at that point that her doctors recommended she be placed on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.

While Drew says she has good health insurance coverage, there are many aspects of her treatment that won’t be covered by insurance. She will have to travel to and from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston regularly and her family will need to stay with her during and after the surgery. She will also have a large new regime of drugs, some of which may not be fully covered by her insurance.

Drew said there’s no way for her to plan around the transplant surgery. She won’t even know what number she is on the transplant list.

“I need to stay no further than two hours from Boston, in case they call,” she said.

She is also unable to work more than two hours a day, and even that has become strenuous for her.

But the most frustrating part for Drew is that she’s not able to play her instruments anymore.

“It kills me that I can’t play,” she said. “I mean, I miss running a lot. But there’s something about music. I really miss the artistic expression.”

That was where Drew’s former music teacher, Renee Richardson, the band director at Scarborough High School, stepped in. Richardson decided the band should do a fundraiser concert for Drew’s treatment.

“She’s an incredible young lady,” Richardson said.

Drew was the president of the band when she was in high school and received the school’s John Philip Sousa award for music leadership. 

The Scarborough High School annual spring concert will be a benefit for Drew this this year. The bands will perform at 7 p.m. on May 26 and will donate all the proceeds from the concert to the “Air for Ashley” fund. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Drew will attend the concert if she is well enough. 

The band has also been doing bake sales to raise money and the band boosters donated $150 to the fund.

Kelsey McGrath, a senior and piccolo player at Scarborough High School, headed up the bake sale and said they’ve already raised more than $1,200 by selling donated baked goods at all of the middle and fifth-grade band concerts.

“We had so many people just give us twenties for a couple of things,” McGrath said. 

There are other fundraisers going on around town and in the schools as more and more people become aware of Drew’s condition.

“She just has this great attitude,” Richardson said. “She deserves all the best.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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Band students at Scarborough High School prepare for their upcoming spring concert. The concert, May 26 at 7 p.m., will be a benefit this year for Ashley Drew, a SHS graduate and former piccolo, flute and saxophone student and band president. Drew, who has cystic fibrosis, is awaiting a double lung transplant.

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