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Cystic fibrosis treatments making great strides

Posted May 5, 2008

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— Cystic fibrosis used to steal the lives of children before their teens. New medical treatments, however, have patients living well into adulthood.

Joy Cook, 23, suffered from cystic fibrosis for several years before she knew what it was.

“I was diagnosed when I was 7. I'd been sick a lot as a child,” she said.

Dr. Peadar Noone, a pulmonologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the most serious symptom of cystic fibrosis is mucus building up in the lungs.

“The air passages become built up with bacteria and as time passes, that really takes its toll on the airways and damages the lungs,” Noone said.

New treatments like breathing a simple aerated salt solution can help clear the lungs.

In December 2006, when Cook was a junior at UNC, these new treatments were too late to reverse the damage done.

“That's when we start thinking things like lung transplant,” Noone said.

Fortunately, Cook didn't have to wait long for a donor's lungs, just 24 hours.

“I remember feeling better as soon as I was conscious enough to be awake,” Cook said.

With few complications, she steadily grew stronger. She was even able to  join a recent fund-raising walk to benefit cystic fibrosis research.

“I mean, I feel like I just want to do everything I can with them (lungs) that I couldn't do before. So the walk was in the spring and I just always seemed to be sick in the spring,” Cook said.

Cook said she wants the donor's family to know just how much she appreciates their gift.

“I'm extremely, extremely thankful and enjoying every second that I've got,” she added.

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  • Doctor Dataclerk May 6, 2008

    It's not reported much because so few people have it statistically (30,000 out of 350,000,000 in the US), but if you or your loved one is one of the few that have it, it's a 24/7 fight. I have good friend with two children who fight CF daily and I wish more was done to find a cure. But I'm glad great strides have been made and kids live longer and are more able to enjoy life than they used to.

  • allison842 May 6, 2008

    Oh... forgot to say that he is about 28 years old. They really are improving on the length of life for those plagued by CF. Bless the medical profession for all the important work they do.

  • allison842 May 6, 2008

    A family friend of ours is actually still in the hospital at UNC recovering from his double lung transplant. He's been there for months, but he's improving every day!

    Good luck Jonathan!

  • jw63 May 6, 2008

    We did the CF walk this past weekend at Ritter Park in Cary. That chapter raised over 100K.

  • sassysewer May 6, 2008

    My daughter works with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a campaign coordinator and it's amazing how few people have even heard of this condition. It doesn't get anywhere near enough attention in the media. Thank you WRAL for bringing attention to it.

  • firedad2003 May 5, 2008

    I lost a wonderful friend to this disease. I hope they find a cure soon. RIP Beth!