The fourth floor of the Richards Building at Maine Medical Center is a little more quiet these days. Ashley Drew went to her parents’ home in Scarborough on Tuesday.

No more cheers for a University of Maine hockey goal or basketball victory heard in the corridors of the hospital’s pulmonary unit. No more exasperation or loud groans at a shift in momentum and a lead lost.

“They would come and literally shut the door,” said Drew of the nurses and staff. “They knew it wasn’t the time to check my blood pressure and heart rate.”

She is the university’s biggest 93-pound fan and makes no excuses. She paced the floor and yelled while watching the New Hampshire-Maine football game during another stay at Maine Medical in the fall. Maine won that game in overtime and Drew celebrated.

So should we all. For her.

She was the wisp of a woman perched on the shoulders of UMaine linemen in a photo taken last May at the annual intrasquad scrimmage. I first met her then and wrote about her. A musician and Maine graduate student, she was about to leave campus to prepare for a double lung transplant.

She has lived with cystic fibrosis for her 24 years, fighting off the infections and mucus that make her lungs less and less efficient. When I was told she was a musician, I assumed she played a string instrument or the piano or a drum.

No, she said that day, eager to blow up an assumption. She plays the trumpet and the flute, driving notes with the air from those damaged lungs.

“That’s why I play, to show that I can.”

Her personal victories this fall and winter trumped setbacks that sent her to Maine Medical again and again. She was placed on the list to receive the transplant seven weeks ago Thursday. Drew knows the exact day and blogs almost daily, numbering each by her days on the list. Today is Day 50.

Her writing can be funny and poignant. The window in her room at the Mansion, as she called Maine Medical, overlooked the helicopter pad. Not a great view for some. But every time a helicopter landed, she imagined it was to take her to Boston for the surgery.

She dissed the hospital food sometimes. She didn’t think the cow her hamburger came from ever mooed.

She wrote about her prayers for Gary, a 44-year-old New Gloucester firefighter with cystic fibrosis who was on the transplant list for 151 days. He underwent surgery Thursday and Drew was thrilled.

Her mother is a musician and teacher, and Drew wrote about missing her concerts. She writes matter-of-factly about the sinus surgery she had this fall. The anesthesia messed up her lungs. She lost weight, which is always a mini-crisis. To stay on the list, she has to weigh 90 pounds. She slid to 88 and her name was removed. Fortunately, when she gains the weight back, she doesn’t go to the bottom of the list but reclaims her spot.

Hospital food isn’t great for weight gain, but Drew’s family kept a refrigerator in her room stocked with Mountain Dew, pepperoni, cheese and Cadbury eggs.

Drew saves her joy and her frustration for her sports teams. She was crushed by the Patriots’ loss to the New York Jets. And ecstatic when the Maine hockey team knocked off Boston College.

She pumped me for information about the Maine men’s basketball team.

“This is such an exciting time for Maine,” she said before we said our goodbyes.

She spent 14 days at the Mansion on her last visit. “I watched a lot of college basketball. I did some (musical) arranging.”

Besides the university symphony, Drew played trumpet in the Maine pep band, which has used some of her arrangements.

She draws strength and comfort from many aspects of her life. Music is one more.

Drew will resume her visits to a gym three times a week while she counts the days to her surgery. “My goal is 95 pounds … of pure muscle!” she wrote on her blog. “I’m going to be a beast.”

On that sunny day in May, the Maine football team hoisted her onto their shoulders. And then put her down and got on with a new season in the fall and the rest of their lives.

This is a good time for Maine athletes and teams to pick up again one of their own, and understand what the words “challenge” and “perseverance” really mean.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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