State Representative Debbie Myers-Martin and Vanessa McCoy Celebrate the Legacy of BJ McCoy-Thomas (Chicago Heights, IL) – It happened all so suddenly. As a teenage collegiate student, BJ McCoy-Thomas was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. It started in her toe and then spread to different parts of her body.
Then in 2017, she had pneumonia and instantly the family started seeing her health deteriorate.
“Doctors were not able to control it, and before we knew it, they were telling us that she didn’t have long to live. It was just devastating to us,” said Vanessa-McCoy Pulphus.
“We didn’t know anything about pulmonary fibrosis.”
McCoy Thomas unexpectedly passed away from complications associated with COVID-19 at the age of 49 two years ago. She was a mother, sister, aunt and a friend to many who lived an extraordinary life marked by dedication to service to her community. She devoted her life and career as a social service advocate, working as a case manager.
Mental Health Causes
McCoy-Thomas also dedicated her life to mental health causes and breast cancer awareness. Her philosophy was that no person should go hungry, no family is without shelter, every mind and potential can be developed and the vulnerable need to be clothed and protected.
Pulmonary fibrosis is scarring of the lungs. Over time, the scar tissue blocks the movement of oxygen from inside the tiny air sacs in the lungs into the bloodstream.. Low oxygen level can lead to early symptoms consisting of chronic dry cough, and as it progresses, shortness of breath with exertion becomes evident.
This can lead to a decrease in exercise tolerance, and this prolonged state of muscles throughout the body going unused can make the patient more easily fatigued. About 100,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and about 30,000 to 40,000 new cases are found each year.
BJ McCoy-Thomas Initiative
The family recently held an event to bring awareness to the disease with a food and coat Drive as part of the second annual Billie BJ McCoy Thomas Initiative at Brother’s Keeper Church and Community Resource Center, 283 E. Lincoln Highway in Chicago Heights. BJ McCoy Thomas was the daughter of Brother’s Keeper Church pastor Chief Apostle Dr. William McCoy.
When she was first diagnosed, she was given six months to live. Even with her diagnosis and her journey to defy the odds, she volunteered and worked to raise awareness of pulmonary fibrosis. BJ was not a smoker but combined with her rheumatoid arthritis and COVID-10, both diseases can be deadly.
Vanessa McCoy Pulphus Continues BJ’s Mission
Vanessa-McCoy Pulphus said her sister constantly thought about others even when she knew the end was near. She would research and prepare the family for what life would be without her; making sure she lived a life with no regrets.
“BJ wanted to make sure that we focused on helping other people,” she said.
“God calls us to be servants and that is what we are trying to do. That is who BJ was. She was always incredibly selfless” Her family “BJ was always trying to help others, she was a true case manager. She worked with all ages and inspired others to change for the betterment of good health.” Dr. William McCoy.
“She was a fighter and took advantage of meaningful opportunities presented to her and faced every life challenge-including her illness-with faith, grace, a quiet confidence, and dignity. She fought a good fight.”
Last year, they decided to have a small event in honor of BJ. However in the midst of the pandemic with hospital usage soaring, there was only so much that could be done. At the inaugural event more than 500 individuals and families benefited from the food and coat drive. That year they wanted a larger event where they also gave away household supplies such as laundry detergent and other items. This event has wide community support.
State Representative Debbie Myers-Martin and other Dignitaries
Chicago Heights Mayor David Gonzales, Bloom Township Supervisor T.J. Somers, State Representative Debbie Martin Myers, Chicago 3 rd Ward Alderwoman Pat Dowell and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will be lending their support to this effort.
“We know everything that is going on with COVID, but there are so many other health ailments that are affecting our community that we need to talk about,” added Vanessa-McCoy Pulphus.
“Last year wem were still in shock and in the midst of heavy grieving. Everything was just so emotional. It still is but we knew we had to do something for the greater community for her memory.
“The world may feel sometimes like it is falling apart but there is still a world happening with you. We have to take care of each other and we want to make sure that we take care of our health as a community because I don’t want something like pulmonary fibrosis to sneak up on any other family like it did with us,” said Vanessa McCoy Pulphus.
State Representative Debbie Myers-Martin and Vanessa McCoy Celebrate the Legacy of BJ McCoy-Thomas