My name is Frank and I was born with CF. What has CF done for me? It has made me who I am today. A fighter, strive to succeed with everything I do, never quit and put all my trust in God. I am 43 years old and had a double lung transplant 21 years ago. This September I will turn another year older and 10 days later reach 22 years post transplant. It has been an amazing journey growing up with CF. We see the world differently and we work at it differently. I assume like most people with disabilities, we tend to fight a little harder and not take the simple things for granted. I lived a “normal” life before transplant. It was as normal as I could get.
As a kid, I played basketball and soccer and cruised the neighborhood on my Schwinn 10 speed. That bike gave me freedom. It was just me and the road. The harder I pushed the farther I went. I had amazing friends that helped me with my chest compressions so I wasn’t left behind and I could join them in our adventures to spring break, Cancun, and the weekend camping trips. I knew my limits but it didn’t stop me, I pushed it just so I could feel like everyone else. I learned a lot and thankful for all those opportunities. My lungs never quit on me despite knowing that eventually over time they would take their course.
Eventually, I was told that a double lung transplant was needed to continue pursuing my goals and dreams and just like with everything else, my family and I attacked it with full force. Investigating the hospitals that performed transplants according to their stats and success rates. I eventually landed at UNC Hospital Chapel Hill. It was a journey that had its share of hardships. I didn’t know if I was coming back but always kept my faith in God.
My lungs eventually declined to where I was using 6 liters of O2 24/7. The simplest task was no longer simple if I wasn’t attached to that lifeline of oxygen. The struggle was real but like before, I just kept fighting. Infections and hospital visits came and went. I was in the hospital fighting another infection and on September 18, 1995, I received the most precious gift, a loving and selfless donor offered me another chance at life. I received my life-saving double lung transplant at UNC Hospital. It was a memory full of joy and thankfulness to God, the donor, and the donor’s family.
I do not know anything about my donor except that the lungs were perfect for me. The road post transplant has had its trials but one thing hasn’t changed and that is fighting for another day. I did my tour of three months post transplant in Chapel Hill for continued check-ups and doctor visits. I was able to return home in November to see my first niece born and then finally return home to enjoy life once again adjusting to all the new opportunities. I went back to school and graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. Life continued and I was slowly accomplishing the dreams I had set out for myself.
I later went back for my second B.S. degree in Clinical Lab Sciences as a Medical Technologist and love what I do today. It was a career I wanted to pursue. I wanted to help others and give back any way I could because of all the people in my life that helped me get where I was. A strong bond and love helped me get through the good and bad times. I recently got back into cycling and it has been amazing. Just like when I was a kid cruising the neighborhood, I feel free. It started slow with just wanting to get 5 miles and then 10 and finally reaching 30 miles in one trip. The feeling after the rides are exhausting but feeling rejuvenated. I enjoy every chance I get on my bike, it’s a new adventure whether it’s a trip to the grocery or along the lake. I love it and look forward to reaching 2000 miles this year.
I’ve realized that its okay to be “different.” Strength for me has been through trusting in God, going through the struggles and to keep fighting. Giving up isn’t an option. Still, plenty to accomplish and with God’s love and direction, those dreams will become a reality. Thank you again for this opportunity to share a little piece of my life. It’s been an amazing journey…