Bayou Gauche mother’s brain surgery leaves her fighting to walk, talk

Family, friends say they’re bringing ‘Supermom’ back home

Mandy Macalusa Champagne’s multiple surgeries to remove a brain tumor has left her fighting for every bit of her recovery, but not without help f“rom her family and friends who say they’re going to bring “Supermom” back to Bayou Gauche.

‘We’re just not the kind of people who give up,” said Amber Dufrene, Champagne’s best friend since she was 10 years old. “Failure is not an option.”

They weren’t prepared for Champagne’s long road to recovery, but that hasn’t altered in any way their efforts to bring her back home.

After suffering two years with migraine headaches and more recently with vertigo, Champagne suspected she had a medical problem. In September, an MRI revealed she had a non-cancerous brain tumor at about 1-1/2 inches in size. Champagne asked to delay the removal until after the holidays, but the doctor told her it had to be done immediately.

“She knew something was wrong,” Dufrene said. “We all knew something was wrong, but we just didn’t think it was something like this.”

On Sept. 20, Champagne went into surgery at West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero.

Dufrene said it was going well until Champagne’s brain started swelling in the fourth hour of the five-hour procedure, requiring it be stopped before the entire tumor could be removed.

Complications put Champagne in ICU for 30 days.

In that time, she underwent another five surgeries to ease the swelling, which included implanting a stint in her brain. A trachea was also placed to help her breathe, which she still relies on now, and Dufrene said they are hoping will be removed soon to help her vocal chords heal.

When Champagne stabilized enough to be placed in a regular hospital room, she was moved to Trinity Neurologic

Rehabilitation Center in Slidell, where she is today. By this time, Dufrene said she was capable of moving her hands and responding to cards with questions by nodding yes or no.

But the road to recovery has been challenging for her.Family and friends have  stayed focused on getting her treatment and bringing her back to Bayou Gauche.

Dufrene, along with Champagne’s sister, Vicki Dunn, and her husband, Johnny, are her biggest supporters. The sisters “share a bond like no other sisters that I’ve seen,” Dufrene said. “Vicki is so caring for Mandy, and the love shown between the two is overwhelming yet comforting.”

Champagne’s parents, Michael Macalusa and Sandy Cheramie, take turns staying with their daughter at the rehab center to ensure someone is with her at all time. Her ex-husband, Kenny Champagne, is caring for their son, Gage, 9, and daughter, Jordan, 14.

“Mandy has a great circle of best friends,” Dufrene said. “The support that we have already gotten for help with Mandy is overwhelming. I cannot even begin to say ‘Thank you’ enough.”

Dufrene named Elana Folse, owner of Fleur De Lane’s gift shop in Boutte, and Michelle Moore, who lives in Dallas, Texas, and has been flying back to St. Charles Parish to be with Champagne.

“We have all been best friends for 25-plus years,” Dufrene said. “I couldn’t ask for a better circle of friendship. We know how to keep each other in line.”

Champagne’s cousin, Holly Donohue, and her co-workers at St. Charles Parish Public Schools, where she works as an accountant, have both been organizing football pools to help with expenses.

An adult dance fundraiser is scheduled 8 p.m. to midnight Jan. 27 at the River Room on River Road in Luling with food, a silent auction and more. Tickets are $20 each.

A Gofundme account has been set for donations at www.gofundme.com/mandychampagne?ssid=831512580&pos=3.

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