Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The freedom to breathe: Cystic fibrosis and lung transplants

Cystic fibrosis left James Cooper fighting for his life. Then doctors told him that a double lung transplant might offer him a second chance

This is a great personal story of a 26-year-old Cystic Fibrosis patient's transformation from a life of virtually no hope and despair to to one of hope and thanks for a "second chance" at life by being given a double-lung transplant. As with so many other organ transplant recipients I know, James is now a strong advocate for organ donation awareness.

From The Independent in the UK:

This morning I took a 10-minute stroll, making my way up the road to a local café for breakfast at a brisk pace. Not a particularly remarkable feat for most people. But for me, it is still a novelty, and one which gives me intense pleasure. Every time I walk further than my front door I silently thank a dead man who I never met and whose name I don't know. I'm 26 years old and the only reason I'll be able to celebrate 27 is because four months ago I had a double lung transplant. I have cystic fibrosis and, for almost as long as I can remember, I've had a fairly mature sounding smoker's type cough.

Cystic fibrosis hasn't been the main occupation of my life. Apart from the occasional hospital visit and a wheeze that would make Jimmy Savile proud, my life has been great. It's only in the past few years that CF started to make its presence felt. Early last year, I caught a cold and, with grim predictability, it travelled south to my lungs. Feeling distinctly ropey, I went to stay with my parents for a two-week course of intravenous antibiotics and to indulge in copious amounts of my mum's cooking. But at the end of the fortnight, there was no improvement. A high temperature and a cough forced me to decamp to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, where I was admitted to intensive care. It was only then that I realised how bad things were.

After five days in intensive care, things stabilised enough for me to be transferred to the respiratory ward. Over the next seven weeks, I continued to improve. But I was told by the consultant that my health would never recover to what it was before I became ill.

My consultant offered to find out whether I would be eligible for a double lung transplant. I wasn't sure about the whole transplant thing, but an appointment was made at Harefield Hospital in June and I was told I could go home. An oxygen compressor was set up in the house, piping O2 to four different rooms. Read the rest of Jame's story as he describes the excitement of getting "the call" and his operation and recovery.

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