A Letter To My Donor

Jerry Unplugged: A blog by Jerry Cahill

Six years ago, on April 18, 2012 I received the ultimate gift – a healthy set of lungs.  

This is my transplant story and finally, an open letter to my donor Chris who gave me a second chance at life. 

On April 17th I was called to Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York City. They had a perfect set of lungs on paper for me and simultaneously while I was on my way in, a team went to harvest and evaluate these lungs, which were located out of state.  It’s a bit of coordination for the doctors to determine the health of the lungs. Were they damaged? Were there contusions or other imperfections? Were these lungs meant for me? The team at CUMC would make the final decision on whether they were a match or not. It was the sixth time that I’d been called in for the transplant, so I wasn’t getting too excited, but I also didn’t let myself get too down. This time the news was good – the transplant was a go! Before I could blink, my team began to prep me. My worn out, diseased lungs were about to be replaced with clear, healthy lungs. My life was about to be forever changed.  

Before I went into surgery, my lung function was at a dismal 19% and I spent eighteen hours a day pumping myself with medications and intravenous antibiotics to stay alive.  This wasn’t me. I was a coach, an athlete and an advocate for living a healthy life with cystic fibrosis. This wasn’t healthy! My quality of life was non-existent, and quite frankly, I was embarrassed each time I struggled to walk up a flight of stairs.  

As I was wheeled into the operating room, I remember saying to my family, “Go into the waiting room and wait. I’ll see you later.” What was I thinking?   

When I woke up I truly was a changed man.  It was a foreign feeling  for me to have clear lungs and when I took my first breaths I told my surgeon, “these lungs are too big – I think you stuffed them in.” This wasn’t a joke, I was being serious.  I was grateful and knew this wouldn’t just be a second chance at life for me, but for my donor Chris.  We were in this together now. 

The last six years have been quite a journey – and that’s very much how I view life – as a journey.  I’ve written letters to my donor’s family each year, but they haven’t responded yet. I wholeheartedly respect their decision, but I felt strongly compelled to write an open letter to this amazing man Chris, who saved my life. 

Dear Chris……

To read Jerry’s letter to Chris, please click here

Cystic Fibrosis Wind Sprint 65: Exercising Outdoors Post-Transplant

As all post-transplant patients know, exercising outdoors can be a daunting task because of the danger of too much sun exposure. To solve this issue, Jerry wears lots of sunscreen, a sun-blocking hat, and often works out using a medicine ball somewhere in the shade. Working with a weighted medicine ball gives him the flexibility (literally!) to move his workouts out of direct sunlight and into the shade when necessary, allowing him to enjoy a beautiful day outside while protecting his skin from any harm. As Jerry likes to say… no excuses! Get outside and exercise to live, breathe, and succeed with cystic fibrosis!

Continue reading Cystic Fibrosis Wind Sprint 65: Exercising Outdoors Post-Transplant

5 Inspirational Individuals with Cystic Fibrosis worth Following on Social Media

By Ella Balasa

I’ve created a list of young woman and men who make the most of life despite battling Cystic Fibrosis. They share their experiences, the good and the bad, on social media. They inspire, educate, and spread awareness about CF. As a person with CF myself, though I live a full life and experience similar obstacles and triumphs, I haven’t gotten the courage to show this kind of vulnerability. I hope they show both CF and non-CF people alike that we all can do many things we set our minds to despite having seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our way.

  1. Instagram: Fight2breathe

Caleigh is a 27-year-old woman who received a double lung transplant October 20, 2015. She shares posts about her daily struggles and triumphs in dealing with CF and transplant and now more recently dealing with the rejection of her lung transplant and her rapid health decline. She is incredibly knowledgeable about many procedures and tests her and her doctors discuss and she shares them with her followers in a way everyone can understand. Her genuine personality, charisma, and strength are all palpable through her words through which she relates her true fears, hopes, insecurities, and raw emotions about an unknown future. She finds something beautiful in every hard day, whether that be being able to see her pets, spending time with her loved ones, or just reading the uplifting comments on her posts.

  1. Instagram: lung_story_short

Rima shares her experience of fighting CF through humor and keeping lighthearted. Her sister shares her journey as being her caretaker while she waited for a transplant. She spent many days in the hospital exploring the hallways, playing games, crafting, and making friends with nurses. She has recently received a double lung transplant (5.14.17) and is now sharing her amazing recovery process day by day! Her lung function is increasing quickly and is gaining so much endurance and strength since being transplanted. She shares a lot about CF awareness and is becoming more known through the CF community.

“Hi my name is Rima and I have Cystic Fibrosis. I had come to the point in my health where my old lungs could no longer serve me and I was in need of a double lung transplant. Here I am now at 27 years old with brand new air baggies! It was a long journey but I am made it with the help of my trusty sidekick Laima, my sister. She joined me on my quest for new lungs when I decided to move to Colorado. The transplant center there decided that they didn’t want to do my transplant because they said that my post-transplant care would be tricky and risky due to how resistant the “bugs” in my lungs were to all antibiotics. So then the search for another center began. Thanks to my sister she discovered the U of M in Minneapolis MN with the help of a friend. Since that discovery, we are now part of the U of M family indefinitely. Throughout this whole thing, we decided we wanted to document and share everything Cystic Fibrosis related as well as transplant and organ donation. We started a blog last spring as well as started sharing on social media via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We want to help spread awareness because there are so many people out there that are unaware of Cystic Fibrosis. There are also a huge amount of people that aren’t organ donors, many of them just don’t know how to become one but many just avoid the subject due to either personal or religious reasons. Another thing we want to show people with CF is that you can still have a fun-filled adventurous life, you don’t have to live your life cooped up in your house to keep good health. Laughter, sunshine and the outdoors soothes the body and soul! The Cystic Fibrosis community needs a cure, and with the help of spreading awareness, we can help raise funding for research! If you would like to keep up with our story you can follow us on Instagram: @lung_story_stort, Facebook: lung story short and for the blog atwww.lungstoryshort.com” -Rima

  1. Instagram: Tiffrich22

Tiff is a 28-year-old woman who was diagnosed at birth with cystic fibrosis. She resides in sunny California where she got a transplant November 30th, 2016 at Stanford University. A few years ago she started a campaign to meet her idol Taylor Swift at a concert. With the help of family, friends, and strangers, she got her wish. Her campaign led her to start her very own YouTube channel, LUNGS4TIFF, where she helps educate people and raise awareness about CF and the hardships while telling her story through videos. She intends to show others through social Media that having a positive spirit and desire for fun in life helps anyone get through the toughest times. She is thriving and planning for adventures to come.

“Through my Instagram, I have been able to show all of the sides of CF and transplant. I knew I wanted to be real and show the not so “glamorous” side of this disease, as well as the happy go lucky side. I feel by showing the hardships that I have faced, it has helped others know that it’s okay to struggle. I always say that there’s always someone going through much worse and that I’m lucky. Now with new Lungs, I am able to start my second chance at life and go check off my bucket list items. I have been able to check off my first NBA game (Go Warriors) and ride in a hot air balloon! I am blessed and can’t wait to post more about my adventures and my journey with new Lungs.

Another way I use Instagram to help the CF community and foundation is through mine and my best friend, Lea, @SaltyCysters page. We have joined forces to provide awareness and started making workout clothes to motivate the CF community to get their lungs moving and profits go to the CF Foundation to use for research and development towards a cure.

CF Awareness is very important to me. My passion is to help others and I think that by sharing my story via Instagram and all forms of social media, I am able to show that being positive is key to conquering this horrific disease. I will continue to raise awareness and share my story, hoping that CF will soon stand for Cure Found.” – Tiff

  1. Youtube: Staying Salty Youtube Channel

A group of 6 individuals talk, inform, help, and educate about their lives and experiences with CF. They come from all different backgrounds and live all over the country. They each post a video a different day of the week. They make videos on various topics related to living life with CF, including a day in the life, how they tell others about CF, surgeries they’ve had, medication organization, CF clinics and much more. Many videos are informative and interesting to view how others with CF are managing and succeeding in life! They have full-time jobs, they travel, they raise families, and importantly, they raise awareness for the CF community.

  1. Youtube: The Frey Life

A young couple, Mary and Peter, along with their pooch Oliver, share their day to day lives in daily vlogs on their YouTube channel. Mary has CF and they share the details of daily breathing treatments, doctor appointments, and the highs and lows of dealing with a chronic illness, both as a patient and a partner. Besides the aspect of Mary’s diagnosis, they share their strong faiths and their beautiful love story as a couple with their 100K subscribers.

Please Join Us for a Free Private Screening of Up for Air at CUMC

Please join us for a FREE private film screening of
UP FOR AIR

Tuesday, May 9, 2017
6:00 – 8:00 PM

Reception followed by screening and Q & A with Jerry Cahill and the film’s Continue reading Please Join Us for a Free Private Screening of Up for Air at CUMC

Stream My Documentary, Up For Air, FREE this week!

We’re still celebrating Jerry Cahill’s 5 year post transplant anniversary by giving away his documentary, Up For Air, for FREE through April 30th!

Use discount code “BigAir” to stream!

CF Podcast 169: #MyNewLungs

In this podcast, cystic fibrosis patients share their inspiring double lung transplant stories in honor of organ donation awareness month. From being listed to “dry runs” to the actual surgery – each of these stories offers a unique Continue reading CF Podcast 169: #MyNewLungs

Double lung transplant patient reflects on life 26 years after lifesaving surgery

http://www.wect.com/story/34508973/double-lung-transplant-patient-reflects-on-life-26-years-after-lifesaving-surgery

Howell Graham was the first Cystic Fibrosis patient at UNC to receive a double lung transplant that saved his life in 1990. Today, he looks back on what all he has been able to accomplish since the day of his Continue reading Double lung transplant patient reflects on life 26 years after lifesaving surgery

OWN IT: Did Science Find an Answer to the Lack of Organ Donors?

As it turns out the future is now. From National Geographic:

In a remarkable—if likely controversial—feat, scientists announced today that they have created the first successful human-animal hybrids. The project proves that human cells can be introduced into a Continue reading OWN IT: Did Science Find an Answer to the Lack of Organ Donors?

CF Podcast 165: Denise Horgan’s Life Post-Double Lung Transplant

In this cystic fibrosis podcast, we meet Denise – a 41-year-old County Kerry, Ireland native who is living, breathing, and succeeding in New York. Three years ago, she received a life-saving double lung transplant, which she says was a bittersweet moment… to know that Continue reading CF Podcast 165: Denise Horgan’s Life Post-Double Lung Transplant

France’s New Organ Donation Policy is Awesome

ICYMI: France’s New Organ Donation Policy is Awesome via OWN IT

On Sunday France’s new organ donation policy went into effect, which essentially flips the conventional way people had been agreeing to be donors (via The Guardian): Continue reading France’s New Organ Donation Policy is Awesome