CYSTIC FIBROSIS AWARENESS

This summer, 7-17, Carl and I were blessed with our first grandchild, Linkin Ronald Vietzke.  He was born

with Cystic Fibrosis.  We were not aware that the CF gene ran in our families and we were ALL shocked

to find out that mom AND dad had it.  When Linkin was born, he was immediately tested and was found

positive for the gene.  Thanks to this early testing though, mom and dad were able to begin treatments

immediately and start down the path of care.

Linkin looks and will act like any "normal" child.  The difference is that he is not and for his entire life,

he will face challenges that will alter how those around him will perceive him.  Instead of thinking about

future weddings, grandchildren and the long range future, mom, dad and grandparents are hoping to get

to tomorrow.  We are hoping to see kindergarten, a school play, elementary, high school, sports games,

prom, college.  We cross our fingers for a future and do everything in our power to make it happen. 

 

Unless someone is told that Linkin has CF, it will be assumed that he can go swimming in a pond, that he can eat an ice cream cone on a whim, that he can sit around the camp fire and roast marshmallows, and so much more.  But, that will not be the case.  Smoke and bacteria can wreak havoc on his lungs.  It could send him to the hospital for weeks.  If he doesn't take his enzymes before he eats, he could have major issues with his digestive functions.  There's no spontaneity without planning.  There's no taking chances without first thinking about every consequence.  But we choose to look at CF, not so much as a problem but more like we have to do life a bit differently.  There are many things Linkin will NOT be able to do as he grows older, but there are still thousands of things that he WILL be able to do.  And as time moves forward and the Cystic Fibrosis researchers learn more, maybe someday life won't include the word different at all.  Maybe some day, life won't have to include the term Cystic Fibrosis at all...except in our history books.

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(The following information was duplicated with permission from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website.  Links are provided.  Additional information and how to donate is found on their website at Cystic Fibrosis Foundation or their Facebook page.)

 

What is Cystic Fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.

 

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage, and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Very salty-tasting skin

  • Persistent coughing, at times with phlegm

  • Frequent lung infections including pneumonia or bronchitis

  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

  • Poor growth or weight gain in spite of a good appetite

  • Frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty with bowel movements

  • Male infertility

 

Cystic fibrosis is a complex disease and the types and severity of symptoms can differ widely from person to person. Many different factors, such as age of diagnosis, can affect an individual's health and the course of the disease.

 

People with cystic fibrosis are at greater risk of getting lung infections because thick, sticky mucus builds up in their lungs, allowing germs to thrive and multiply. Lung infections, caused mostly by bacteria, are a serious and chronic problem for many people living with the disease. Minimizing contact with germs is a top concern for people with CF.

 

The buildup of mucus in the pancreas can also stop the absorption of food and key nutrients, resulting in malnutrition and poor growth. In the liver, the thick mucus can block the bile duct, causing liver disease. In men, CF can affect their ability to have children.

Breakthrough treatments have added years to the lives of people with cystic fibrosis. Today the median predicted survival age is close to 40. This is a dramatic improvement from the 1950s, when a child with CF rarely lived long enough to attend elementary school.

Because of tremendous advancements in research and care, many people with CF are living long enough to realize their dreams of attending college, pursuing careers, getting married, and having kids.

While there has been significant progress in treating this disease, there is still no cure and too many lives are cut far too short.

Treatments

The type and severity of CF symptoms can differ widely from person to person. Therefore, although treatment plans can contain many of the same elements, they are tailored to each individual's unique circumstances.

People with CF need to work closely with their medical professionals and families to create individualized treatment plans. 

The CF Foundation accredits more than 120 care centers that are staffed by dedicated healthcare professionals who provide expert CF care and specialized disease management.

Each day, people with CF complete a combination of the following therapies:

  • Airway clearance to help loosen and get rid of the thick mucus that can build up in the lungs. Some airway clearance techniques require help from family members, friends, or respiratory therapists. Many people with CF use an inflatable vest that vibrates the chest at a high frequency to help loosen and thin mucus.

  • Inhaled medicines to open the airways or thin the mucus. These are liquid medicines that are made into a mist or aerosol and then inhaled through a nebulizer. These medicines include antibiotics to fight lung infections and therapies to help keep the airways clear.

  • Pancreatic enzyme supplement capsules to improve the absorption of vital nutrients. These supplements are taken with every meal and most snacks. People with CF also usually take multivitamins.

The CF Foundation supports research to discover and develop new CF treatments and maintains a pipeline of potential therapies that target the disease from every angle. 

 

In 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the second drug to treat the root cause of cystic fibrosis, a defective protein known as CFTR. The first drug targeting the basic genetic defect in CF was approved in 2012. The arrival of this group of drugs, called CFTR modulators, signals a historic breakthrough in how CF is treated. It's expected that CFTR modulators could add decades of life for some people with CF.

Today, the Foundation is focused on developing lifesaving new therapies for larger numbers of people with CF and pursuing daring, new opportunities to one day develop a lifelong cure. 

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A DAY IN LINKIN'S LIFE

 

Linkin has a routine he must do EVERY DAY of his life.  When he wakes up, the

first things we do are breathing treatments.  While he is young, we do what I call

the "poundings".  For his first year, we "pound" on his back and chest to help loosen

the mucus in his lungs to keep them clear.  He does an inhaler for medication (like

an asthma bottle), a nebulizer with medication and, of course the "cup" for loosening

the mucus.  As he gets older, he gets a vest.  The machine he uses to loosen the

mucus costs $20,000.00, but it is a much needed piece of equipment that makes

life a gazillion times easier for the parents and child.  And we know that it does a

way better job than we can do. 

 

Then, we start the day  with breakfast.  Linkin cannot break down food

because the pancreas enzymes don't get to his stomach to break it down so his

body can use them.  He has to take a drug before EVERY meal in order to be able

to ingest and use the nutrients in the food.  Ok, that sucks you say, but he can

take drugs.  Well, that bottle costs $200.  And you cannot get a regular monthly

prescription because how can you determine how many times a person will eat? 

They only last for so long.  What if he takes them and the food isn't there or

something comes up to delay his meal?  Then he has to take more.  What

happens when he goes to a relatives?  What happens if he takes a trip on a plane

and his medicine is packed in a bag that is held over for 3 days?  What happens

if he can't get a refill where he's at?  What if insurance doesn't cover it?  These

and many other questions and concerns are tossed around in the back

of the minds of a CF person and family.

Before bedtime, and sometimes twice additional for a total of four times a day,

Linkin has to repeat the first step of the day.  Why?  Bacteria.

Linkin's lungs have a thick mucus in them.  Ours is thin so when bacteria

gets in, we cough it out.  Linkin cannot do that.  Because the mucus is so thick,

EVERYTHING gets caught in it.  Bacteria that we would say, "oh, it's just a cold" to,

well, a cold easily turns into something that could kill him.  It is not uncommon

for CF people to be hospitalized several weeks out of the year.  Without proper

care, without financial help, the family can be devastated and yes, the CF person

can die.  That's the horrible reality.  In the video to the right, Linkin's mom Tiffany is

doing Chest Physio Therapy (CPT) which is loosening the mucus in the lungs so that when they start the breathing treatments, the treatments can be more effective.

THIS SITE IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE CYSTIC FIBROSIS FOUNDATION. 

This is my own personal site, considered a third party site, and I am a proud sponsor of the foundation.  Some of the information on this page has been used with permission from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and all appropriate links are provided in bold, blue, underlined text.  The donation button will take you directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's website where you can donate directly to them.