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Cystic Fibrosis (For a Friend)


shadows

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I've had a friend since pretty much the first few weeks of high school. She's fun, fairly pretty, has a great sense of humor and is sickeningly kind. We've been to Belize together (she got flesh burrowing parasites), passed notes written in substitution ciphers, and overall had a lot of fun together.

 

She also has cystic fibrosis. Now, when I first met her, she did seem rather thin, okay really thin for a normal human being. But then again, I'd come from a school where to be anorexic was the norm and in some ways I've never been the most observant person. I did notice her gigantic bottle of pills however, and the fact that she was always coughing did register somewhere at the back of my mind. It wasn't until I asked her one day why she was taking pills with her lunch that I found out.

 

For those of you who didn't bother to read the wikipedia article, I'll sum up CF fairly quickly. Basically, your lungs fill with phlegm, which causes problems breathing. Also, digestion doesn't work that well, as the body has problems absorbing nutrients (hence the pills). The average life-span for someone with CF is around 32 years. I try not to think about that.

 

Now, my friend had exceedingly good luck when it came to her CF. Other than mild coughing, she didn't experience many problems. Her mom was a respiratory therapist and she spent no time in the hospital. This changed within the last year. She got a lung infection which required her to stay in the hospital to be monitored and take anti-biotics to try and fight it off. Any problems with the lungs is a serious problem for someone with CF, and our entire class was worried about her (again, note she's the kindest person you'd ever hope to meet so everybody loves her).

 

I thought she'd gotten better, but sometime last week, she told me that her oxygen level in her blood at night was dropping to 83%. For a normal healthy person the level should be 93%, anything below, even just a couple of percentage points is bad for a healthy person. She was supposed to try and breath deeply, and maybe that would raise her oxygen level, but apparently that didn't work. So, now she's back in the hospital to fight off that lung infection which never disappeared the last time. Last time she spent five days in the hospital, and it looks like she may spend a similar amount of time there.

 

We are really good friends. Everybody thinks that I have a crush on her but is too afraid to ask her out on a date. We went to Prom together and I don't know, it's just hard on her and I hate it.

 

//shadows

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Oh man that really sucks! I'm so sorry Shadows. I wish I could fix it, or at least say something really helpful but I can't. All I can suggest is that first off you be there for her and are really supportive while she's in the hospital. Maybe surprise her with a little gift or something that she really likes, or that "reminds" you of her. And be there for her if she needs to talk. And if it seems like she can handle it, maybe you might want to talk to her about how YOU feel.

 

Anyway either way, also try to stay positive and just really enjoy the time you guys spend together. Don't dwell too much on her condition, or long-term prognosis, but DO let it give you perspective. Especially when interacting with her. Also try to remain hopeful (and pass that hope on to her) about her future. The "average" life-span for CF may only be 32 years, but that doesn't mean SHE won't live well beyond that. And I know it's Na

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My long time friend Mike had a younger brother with CF.

 

Ike was a real cutie. He never got to be real big but he was stunningly handsome and girls followed him around like puppies.

 

Ike often had to come from Vicksburg to the University Medical Center in Jackson for treatment. When he was in UMC, he would call me and on weekends we would go see movies and eat his favorites: Dairy Queen and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

 

Ike died at the age of 25 and Mike and I were crushed. He was such a sweet kid. He was never into self pity and always had something nice and positive to say. I miss him a lot.

 

CF is a cruel disease that I hope is cured soon. It cuts short the lives of some remarkable young people and if you privileged to know one, you will never forget them.

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