I Have Cystic Fibrosis, and CF Has Me

This Lung Life By Ella Balasa

I hear others say “I have CF. CF doesn’t have me.” This may be an accurate statement for some, the small percentage of patients who are not limited by this disease. Those who climb mountain peaks, work 60 hours a week, and raise three children. They could say this statement is true. They conquer everything, despite CF.

I am not one of these patients. I am optimistic, though. I’m optimistic that one day I will sprint faster than you (with transplanted lungs). I’m optimistic that I will leave this world having made some kind of impact on those around me, and maybe others that I am unaware of. But with this DNA in the cells of my lungs, I can’t do it all.

I’ve had significant events and minute moments in my life that have been affected by CF, although it’s not always apparent to the world around me. However, I don’t claim that CF has altered my life for the worst. Instead, I show the reality.

CF had me most recently when I was planning to go to the Cystic Fibrosis Research Inc.’s Family Education Conference. Being a director for the U.S. Adult Cystic Fibrosis Association, I wanted to connect with fellow CF directors and hear about the amazing new research the CF community is eager to benefit from. Unfortunately, due to CF infection guidelines and the bacteria I harbor in my lungs, I posed a risk to other CF patients, so I was restricted from attending.

Recently, as my form of exercise, I have been playing tennis. CF has me when it grasps my airways after just a few serves. I feel my lungs expanding but not getting enough air, exhausted from a previous sprint of just a few feet. I watch as the ball spins toward the far corner of the court. In my mind, my legs are in the air moving toward it, but in reality, they have just elevated the sole of my foot for the first step. The muscles are depleted of oxygen, waiting for the next burst for them to spring into action, but it never comes. Instead, they continue straining with what little reserve they have, for one-quarter of their potential. The quarter that comes from the lungs that function at one-quarter of what they should.

CF dictated the direction my life would take when upon graduation I was offered my dream job, but I didn’t take that career path. Spending four hours a day on breathing treatments, attending frequent doctor’s appointments, having occasional hospital stays and health insurance factors, as well as maintaining a social life and community involvement weren’t conducive to a full-time working schedule. Choosing not to advance in my career as my peers did made me feel left behind. Instead, keeping my health as the focus, I chose part-time employment.

CF has me when I have an exacerbation and lots of congestion in my lungs. On occasion during these times, I’ve taken the flight of stairs from the basement out into the sunshine after work. After a few steps outside, I feel the absence of air in my lungs. I gasp and then panic. Continue the article here. 

Anaerobic bacteria cultured from CF airways correlate to milder disease-a multisite study

Anaerobic and aerobic bacteria were quantitated in respiratory samples across three cystic fibrosis (CF) centres using extended culture methods. Subjects, ages 1–69 years, who were clinically stable provided sputum (n=200) or bronchoalveolar lavage (n=55). Eighteen anaerobic and 39 aerobic genera were cultured from 59% and 95% of samples, respectively; 16/57 genera had a ≥5% prevalence across centres. Analyses of microbial communities using co-occurrence networks in sputum samples showed groupings of oral, including anaerobic, bacteria whereas typical CF pathogens formed distinct entities. Pseudomonas was associated with worse nutrition and F508del genotype, whereas anaerobe prevalence was positively associated with pancreatic sufficiency, better nutrition and better lung function. A higher ratio of total anaerobe/total aerobe colony forming units was associated with pancreatic sufficiency and better nutrition. Subjects grouped by factor analysis who had relative dominance of anaerobes over aerobes had milder disease compared to a Pseudomonas-dominated group with similar proportions of subjects being homozygous for F508del. In summary, anaerobic bacteria occurred at an early age. In sputum producing subjects anaerobic bacteria were associated with milder disease suggesting that targeted eradication of anaerobes may not be warranted in sputum producing CF subjects.

Full article here.

How to Beat Brain Fog

By Wendy Caroline

As I sat down to write my column for this week, a massive wave of writer’s block hit me. This has been plaguing me for a while. Great timing, right?!

I started five different column pieces, each of which I would get a solid start on, and then nothing. I stopped understanding where the piece was going and didn’t like any of the words that I was writing. A few years ago, I started developing chronic fatigue. It started slowly, then quickly snowballed. In the past year, it has developed into brain fog. Very frustrating. I love using my brain for writing, reading, problem-solving, and critical thinking. It increasingly feels like cystic fibrosis is taking all these parts of my personality away from me. So here I am today, compiling a list of some tips and tricks that I use to combat brain fog and feel a little more like myself.

1. Don’t force it.

I can’t tell you how many times I have blocked my own brain by trying to force my way through brain fog. “Just do it.” How many times have we heard that? Unfortunately, at least for me, if I “just do it” and try to force myself to work through the brain fog, it just puts up more blocks. Then I get frustrated, and all I can think about is how I can’t think. It just spirals from there.

Cool, so how do you get past brain fog and still make your deadlines (because if you’re forcing it, that’s often why)? Be ahead of the game. I am guilty of this not being a natural instinct. In fact, I’m still learning how to do this. I used to be a procrastinator. I would thrive under the stress. My brain fog does not. Now I start writing and drafting at least a week before.

2. Get inspired.

One of the best ways to get inspired is to look to others. CF News Today columnist Brad Dell’s latest piece about brain fog directly inspired this post. It got me thinking about my own experience with brain fog, and how I have been insanely frustrated by its hold on my life. Find a piece of other people’s lives or the world around you that makes you think about your own. Capture it and go. I find that making a note of these inspirations in a note-taking app on my phone really helps because brain fog causes forgetfulness.

2. Create the mood.

Ditch the phone and whatever other fancy gizmos that cause a distraction. Find the type of environment that makes you feel inspired and ready to work. For me, that’s open space with lots of natural light and structured seating.

Next, put on some music — music that is going to make you focus and productive. My go-to is this Classical Essentials playlist on shuffle. This helps me drown out enough thoughts that I won’t get distracted without drowning out the thoughts that I need to work. Whatever you listen to, just make sure it doesn’t have words.

It’s also important to get your brain in the right mood. My brain fixates on chores and tasks that need doing, so I always make sure to get those done before I sit down to write. Also yoga and meditation, that’s some great stuff.

4. Let it flow.

A friend of mine gave me this very useful tip. Just let the words flow out of you, even if you don’t like them. When I use this technique, I have to write everything my heart desires and then walk away. Don’t reread it right then. You will get frustrated. Instead, write all you can and come back to it after you’ve had a solid break. For me, this is usually the next day. Your rough work can have a really good base but just needs to be re-worked.

I know that these tips and tricks are focused on writing, but I use the general ideas in all aspects of my life. Whether it is work, family, friends, or hobbies, brain fog can affect every aspect of your life. It’s one of the reasons that I haven’t been very active on any of my social media platforms — Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and even my blog. As my brain fog developed into almost a daily issue, I took a step back and prioritized what I needed to focus on first. I truly believe that as these steps of beating brain fog become a habit, I will be able to handle more. Hopefully, you’ll see me around the internet again real soon.

» Find me on the internet at The Living, Breathing Wendy «

This article was originally published on CF News Today.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

I’m on the transplant list, now what?

In Jerry Cahill’s latest edition of The Path Forward with Cystic Fibrosis, Dr. Selim Arcasoy from Columbia University Medical Center discusses what happens once a patient is on the transplant list.
The first three major steps are:
  1. Create a strict exercise program with the hospital rehab center and integrate it into the patient’s schedule.
  2. Meet with a nutritionist in order to maintain proper weight.
  3. Educate! Meet with the care team in order to understand the entire process – both pre and post transplant.
The transplant process is a long one – and thoroughly detailed – in order to increase the chances of success. Tune in to learn more from Dr. Arcasoy.

This video podcast was made possible through an unrestricted educational grant from Columbia University Medial Center and the Lung Transplant Project.

Ground-Breaking Procedure. A major step for science, medicine, the human condition

by Mary Bulman; Independent UK

“Woman spends record six days without lungs thanks to ground-breaking procedure”

Yes you’ve read that correctly.
Yes, it reads six days.

A true miracle! Definitely an understatement.

Though it’s been over a year since this procedure was carried out, it’s one that I believe cannot be shared enough. A huge step for medicine and science- but perhaps a larger one for the human condition and the willingness to live and fight.

“I still don’t believe it happened. It seems very surreal.” says patient Melissa Benoit.
And that’s because it is, Ms. Benoit.

After coming down with the flu the last year 2016, Ms. Benoit was taken from her home in Burlington, Canada to the ICU in a nearby hospital located right outside of Toronto, Canada.  Doctor’s made the spilt decision to go through with a first time procedure in order to save her life. After becoming resistant to most antibiotics, bacteria began to move throughout her body, eventually causing her to lapse into septic shock. One by one her organs started shutting down, due to the decline of her blood pressure.

“Although it had never been carried out before, doctors decided to remove her lungs entirely.”

“What helped us is the fact that we knew it was a matter of hours before she would die,” said Dr Shaf Keshavjee, one of three surgeons who operated on her. “That gave us the courage to say — if we’re ever going to save this woman, we’re going to do it now.”

To learn more about Ms. Benoit and the new breed of surgery that was carried out please continue onto the article below:
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/woman-six-days-without-lungs-waiting-list-donor-organ-burlington-ontario-melissa-benoit-world-first-a7547936.html

NuvoAir Launches Air Next spirometer– and it uses Bluetooth!

by- Market Insiders, PR Newswire

“The Air Next uses Bluetooth Low Energy, which is a more efficient and cost-effective form of wireless technology, to instantly forward this data from the spirometer to a smartphone or tablet.”

If you’re like me and you very much dislike the extra ten seconds it takes out of your day to write down and journal your spirometry numbers, keep reading. And too, if you’re like me and you forget to bring that journal sheet with you to your doctor to show him your numbers, fear not- you don’t even have to leave your house. Just share it through the cloud. Yes, I know… another cloud.

For those of us who have received a transplant– I believe you know this well. After your surgery you are to use spirometry everyday. Everyday. For a few reasons we are told. To check for rejection, if you’re spirometry numbers are declining. To see, for both personal and medical purposes where you live (what your baseline FEV1 is). Then if you want to brag and show someone. Me: “Look mom, I am taking care of myself. Today I went up 3%.”
It’s very important. My doctors use my home numbers as if I’m doing my PFT’s at their office.
And lastly, this new Air Next looks cool! It’s not like the one hospitals give you that looks like you’re blowing into a 1950’s portal, that’s designed like the inside of a pinball machine. Seriously, check this thing out!

To keep reading visit the article below; also make sure to check out the images:
http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/nuvoair-launches-air-next-revolutionary-new-home-device-to-help-those-with-serious-lung-conditions-1001941321

Study Links CF Patients’ Airway Bacteria with Disease Outcomes

By: Diogo Pinto

Researchers have linked variations in the mix of microorganisms in cystic fibrosis patients’ airways to their disease outcomes.

The findings in the journal PLOS One were in an article titled “Fluctuations in airway bacterial communities associated with clinical states and disease stages in cystic fibrosis.

CF patients typically have particular strains of bacterial and fungus in their airways. The usual bacteria suspects include PseudomonasAchromobacterBurkholderiaHaemophilusStaphylococcus, and Stenotrophomonas.

Other bacteria and fungi also inhabit CF patients’ airways, however. These include anaerobic species that do not need oxygen to grow and spread.

Not only do the microbial communities in CF patients’ airways vary by type of microorganism, but also in the relative abundance of each species.

Researchers decide to see if the prevalence and relative abundance of typical CF pathogens and anaerobic microorganisms play a role in the severity of patients’ disease and their lung function.

They analyzed 631 sputum samples collected over 10 years from 111 patients.

The team classified the stage of patients’ disease on the basis of their lung function scores. The yardstick they used was forced expiratory volume in one second, or FEV1. They considered an early stage of the disease to be an FEV1 score higher than 70, an intermediate stage a score of 40 to 70, and an advanced stage a score lower than 40.

Researchers classified disease aggressiveness — mild, moderate or severe — on the basis of change in FEV1 relative to age.

They discovered a link between variations in the prevalance of the six typical CF pathogens, plus nine anaerobic species, and changes in a patient’s disease stage and lung function.

To continue reading, click here. 

Antibiotic resistance evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosain cystic fibrosis patients

By Francesca Lucca, Margherita Guarnieri, Mirco Ros, Giovanni Muffato, Roberto Rigoli, and Liviana Da Dalt

Below is a study hoping to define and answer the questions of Pseudomonas aeruginosain, its evolution and the resistance from different antibiotics. The study took place between 2010-2013. Though the study may have some time clauses I believe there are some strong findings for the CF community moving forward.
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Introduction

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is the predominant pathogen responsible of chronic colonization of the airways in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. There are few European data about antibiotic susceptibility evolution of P aeruginosa in CF patients.

Objectives

The aim of this study is to evaluate the evolution of antibiotic resistance in the period 2010‐2013 in CF patients chronically colonized by P aeruginosa and to highlight the characteristics of this evolution in patients younger than 20 years.

Methods

Clinical and microbiological data were extracted from two electronic databases and analyzed. Antibiotic resistance was defined according to European Committee of Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing for levofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, meropenem, amikacin and ceftazidime. The between‐group comparison was drawn with the Chi‐square test for proportions, with the T‐test for unpaired samples for normally distributed data and with Mann‐Whitney test for non‐normally distributed data. Significancy was defined by P < .05.

Results

Fifty‐seven CF patients, including thirteen subjects aged less than 20 years, were enrolled. P.. aeruginosa antibiotic sensitivity decreased significantly for fluoroquinolones, mainly in patients aged <20 years, while it increased for amikacin and colistin. The analysis of minimum inhibitory concentration confirmed these trends. In pediatric patients treated with more than three antibiotic cycles per year, greater resistance was found, except for amikacin and colistin.

Conclusion

An evolution in P aeruginosa antibiotic resistances is observed in the 4‐year period studied. Responsible and informed use of antibiotics is mandatory in CF.
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Read the whole clinical journal here. 

Antibiotic resistance evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa in cystic fibrosis patients (2010‐2013) Francesca Lucca,Margherita Guarnieri,Mirco Ros,Giovanna Muffato,Roberto Rigoli,Liviana Da Dalt. First published: 1 April 2018. https://doi.org/10.1111/crj.12787

Lessons From the Road: Avoid the ER

By: Sydna Marshall

A few weeks ago I found myself in the ER at midnight in a new city.  Let me backup the story a bit. I had planned a road trip to Dallas with my bestie (we’ll call her “A” for now) for a beauty conference. Two days before the trip I ran a 102.6 fever for the better part of the day. The morning of, as I was doing my treatments and finishing my packing, I felt the familiar band of pain around my chest. I mentally ruled it out as merely remnants of pain from my blockage earlier in the week and carried on with my morning. I drove the hour north to pick up A and start our trek up to Dallas. We stopped for tacos and queso along the way. I took some pain meds for that persistent and annoying band of pain. A few hours later, we checked into our hotel, picked up our beauty boxes for the conference, and had a happy hour cocktail in the bar followed by sushi in the rotating tower.

Fast forward to 9p: CF changes on a dime. Suddenly, that pesky band of pain that I’ve absently noticed and ignored for the day is front and center. I can barely take a breath, much less a full breath, post-treatment. By 11p, I’ve laid in bed silently crying as the pain spikes up to an 8 and then back to a 6. It dawns on me that the band of pain is pleuritic pain. After texting multiple Cysters and weighing the pain with the inability to breathe, my recent 20% drop in lung functions and the fever I ran earlier, I finally make the decision to wake up A (who is for once sleeping peacefully, without interruptions, in the absence of her four kiddos) and have her drive me to the ER.

We arrive at the ER with this naïve idea that my CF clinic, albeit on-call at this late hour, will communicate with the CF clinic in Dallas. I’d already given A all of the information, phone numbers, and instructions for getting everyone, including my husband Adam, on the same page. Over the course of the evening and early morning hours, hundreds of texts and calls between A, Adam, and the on-call care team at home transpire in an effort to expedite the process.  Since it’s not my first rodeo with pleuritic pain, I’ve already determined before we even got settled in the ER that I desperately need instant-relief pain meds and a chest X-ray. Am I the only one who self-diagnoses? When you’re in and out of the doctor for the litany of health problems in addition to CF, you become the expert on your own body. I digress.

Over the course of the 12 hours in the ER, my port is accessed a total of four times, with one of them being a needle repositioning, before we get anywhere. To administer IV medication and run blood tests, two different nurses start dueling peripheral lines, one in my left hand and the other in my right elbow.  Meanwhile, other nurses attempt to get my port working, which won’t flush or draw back blood. My vein blows on one of the lines, and the other is dangerously close. I have a chest X-ray taken, a CT scan with contrast of my lungs, every blood test imaginable, an EKG, several rounds of morphine, two doses of vancomycin and two albuterol treatments.  I’m told I have a potential pulmonary embolism, a virus causing pleurisy, a mucus plug, or sepsis. Twelve hours in, and about 10 minutes after Adam arrives at the Dallas ER, my repeated requests to be moved to my home clinic, care team, and hospital are heard and I’m care-flighted from Dallas back home (Adam has to drive back home). Once admitted to my home hospital, they have me repeat nearly every test the Dallas ER did less than 24 hours prior as none of my medical records transferred with me from the ER. Five days later the medical records from the ER finally make their way to my home hospital and care team.  In the end, it was determined that I had a virus, which accounted for the difficulty in breathing, pleuritic pain, and fever. It was a very long, traumatic, stressful, and a trying 12 hours away from home. And, I missed my conference entirely, but that’s another story.

I’ve since had some time to reflect on this jaunt to the ER. The biggest takeaway for me – CF clinics do communicate but getting the ER to communicate with the CF care team is nearly impossible.  Having a port is a blessing, but it requires orders from your doctor, not just any doctor, to access and use heparin or cath flow in the event that it’s not working properly (or, in my case, repeatedly accessed incorrectly).  I learned that complaining of chest pain at a new hospital where none of my medical records are accessible means a round of tests to rule out heart problems, despite knowing that it’s my lungs. I learned that transferring medical records from one hospital to another is a royal pain in the you-know-what.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I know I could have avoided the entire debacle if only I had heeded my inner voice the morning I left for Dallas when I first felt the band of pain around my lungs.  For me, it’s often hard to gauge when it’s important to say no and upend plans, especially when it impacts friends and family around me. If a trip to Walgreens completes a vacation in my house, am I an overachiever for my trip to the ER?

How One Conversation Led Me to Being More Intentional About My Life

By: Ella Balasa

Would I ever live long enough to fall in love? Would I be able to graduate college? Would I be remembered for making some kind of impact on the world before I was gone? Would I get to travel to destinations where the breaking waves crashed against a rocky shore and the sea mist sprayed as I breathed deeply, and beside me stood …

Gabriella-Balasa-Beach-Featured-Rectangle

I’m startled back to reality. I sit in a hospital bed, surrounded by my parents in chairs on either side of me. I’m on the lumpy foam mattress, where I sit cross legged and my butt sinks at least 4 inches straining my back and adding to the pain the past few weeks — and this conversation — have caused me. My dad sits, lips pursed as normal when he listens intently. We are all listening to my doctor talk about my declining health, about my recent episode of pneumonia, and what my future may hold.

“No one knows the future,” I think, as the doctor speaks. My mind jumps again to that ocean scene, only it isn’t me standing on the shore, I’m now observing the scene from above, as if in spirit. Observing a couple embrace and I feel a strange sense of sadness, anger, and jealousy.

“It’s time to consider a lung transplant.” Those words, uttered from my pediatric CF doctor 6 years ago, made me, in an instant, think about all the joys of life I hadn’t gotten to experience yet.

Why me? That’s the first thought many people have when they can’t accept the reality of what’s happening. We try to answer unanswerable questions.

Later that summer, my parents and I followed doctors’ advice and scheduled a week-long transplant evaluation. A week of what I still consider to be grueling medical tests, even compared to other lung complications I have developed since. In the end, the transplant evaluators concluded I was not quite in the transplant window at the time. That fall, my health started to stabilize. I started my second year of college and I felt myself withdraw from the world.

To continue reading, visit CFF community blog.