With Time Running Out, an Artist With Cystic Fibrosis Reflects on Her Art and Experiences as a Patient

According to a story from BBC, 35 year old Kimberly Chard knows that she probably doesn’t have much longer to live. Kimberly was born with cystic fibrosis, a rare disorder which causes lung function to worsen over time. She got a lung transplant three years ago as a last resort, but her body is starting to reject the new lungs. Now she hopes to leave behind a legacy in her artwork.

About Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a type of genetic disorder which can have impacts throughout the body, but it is most characterized by the build up of abnormally thick, sticky mucus in the lungs. This mucus becomes a fertile breeding ground and habitat for potentially infectious bacteria. Many patients must take antibiotics for much of their lives. This disorder is caused by mutations of the CFTR gene. Symptoms of cystic fibrosis include progressive decline in lung function, lung and sinus infections, coughing up mucus, fatty stool, poor growth, infertility in males, clubbed digits, and digestive problems. Treatment includes antibiotics and medications or procedures intended to maintain lung function. Lung transplant is an option when lung function declines severely. Life expectancy ranges into the 40s and 50s with good care. To learn more about cystic fibrosis, click here.

Chronic Illness and Art

For Kimberly, her work as an artist and the need for a creative outlet have been an integral part of her experience as a rare patient. As with many chronic, long term illnesses, cystic fibrosis can often mean frequent visits to the hospital due to lung infections or unexpected exacerbations. The capstone to all of these experiences, at least for Kimberly, was her lung transplant operation.

Kimberly says that frequent hospital visits are often very stressful and can easily leave one feeling isolated. For her, drawing and painting has been a way to help her cope with the challenges of cystic fibrosis. Kimberly even has specific art pieces that she associates with certain visits. The creative process has been very therapeutic for her. Despite the fact that her new lungs are starting to be rejected, Kimberly does not regret her operation, which allowed to her to feel, however briefly, what breathing healthily is like.

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