Local News

More Cystic Fibrosis Patients Living Into Adulthood

Posted December 19, 2002 11:51 a.m. EST

— Thirty years ago, most cystic fibrosis patients did not live past childhood. Now, many people with the disease are living decades longer.

Cystic fibrosis

, or CF, is a genetic disease affecting approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF).

CF is a chronic, progressive, and frequently fatal genetic disease of the body's mucus glands. The disease primarily affects the respiratory and digestive systems in children and young adults.

Brad and Becki Snyder are part of a growing number of adults with the disease.

Brad, 26, said he is the healthier of the two.

"I run, lift weights and work full time," he said.

Becki's illness is more progressed. The 24-year-old often needs oxygen.

"I get out of breath just brushing my hair," she said.

There is talk of a double lung transplant for Becki. Dr. James Yankaskas of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said the transplants are becoming more common.

"That actually is extending survival and quality of life and I think that's going to be a big part of extending care for the foreseeable future," he said.

The medications the Snyders take every day fill their coffee table. Becki has arthritis and diabetes, two more conditions caused by cystic fibrosis.

"That happens in as many as 40 percent of CF adults by the age of 40," Yankaskas said.

The couple admit the disease is challenging.

"I was in the hospital for two weeks this month and [Brad] had the flu. I couldn't really help him or anything because I was sick myself," Becki said.

They are hopeful that newer drugs will push survival rates even higher.

"Hopefully by the time we're 32, it will be 62," Becki said.

In fact, 38.7 percent of the people with CF in the United States are now 18 years or older, according to the CFF.

According to records, the oldest living patient with cystic fibrosis in the United States lives in the Bertie County town of Aulander. Katherine Shores, 77, told WRAL she credits her faith, her family and her doctors for her achievement.