MERCHANTVILLE, NJ (WTXF) - Pinsetter's Bar & Bowl in Merchantville, NJ was packed Thursday night. And the woman in the middle of it all, Melissa Courchain, says this night out was just what the doctor ordered.
"It means so much to me," she told Fox 29’s Bruce Gordon. "It definitely does because I definitely need help this year."
Melissa was born with cystic fibrosis, but last June her medical story got even dicier.
While pregnant with her now seven-month-old son Austin, she got an infection, needed a double lung transplant, and contracted pneumonia. She has been in and out of the hospital ever since.
Melissa just got out of the hospital on Wednesday, and Pinsetter’s was already filled to the brim with supporters the next day.
“I know that for my mental health I needed to come here to see everyone,” Melissa said.
Melissa’s husband, Bob Courchain, concurred.
“It's overwhelming to see this level of support,”” he said. “And it speaks to the type of person she is and the lives that she touched and how people care about her."
A cover charge, silent auction, raffle and t-shirt sales are expected to raise thousands of dollars toward Melissa's medical expenses.
Liz Savage, Melissa’s childhood friend and event co-organizer, spoke to Fox 29 about the cause.
"We just take for granted every day that our lungs work,” she said. “But not everybody's lungs are as healthy as ours. And we want Melissa's to get healthier."
What's most impressive? That many of the 400-plus attendees barely know Melissa. They're family friends or "friends of friends" or total strangers. It's what small towns in South Jersey are all about.
Said Jack Whitehead of Cherry Hill: "The schools, the community, the athletic associations, they all come together."
"The schools, the community, the athletic associations, they all come together."
Melissa took precautions around all these well-wishers, wearing a breathing mask and avoiding handshakes or kisses.
A simple cold could land her back in the hospital. But her doctors clearly felt this night out with the right prescription.
"It's like I have nine lives!" She told Gordon. "They just can't believe all that I've been through and that I'm still here today!"
A separate GoFundMe page had been set up to help the Courchains: https://www.gofundme.com/melissafightsCF