Man with Cystic Fibrosis Goes From 24/7 Oxygen Tank to an Avid Biker 24 Years After his Lung Transplant

 

When Frankie Avila first got his lung transplant, he was told that, like most organs that are transplanted, his lungs only have a certain amount of time before they start to fail. Doctors told him his lungs would only last for about five years. Nearly a quarter of a century later, he is enjoying daily bike rides, living with gratitude and awareness, and maintaining caution.

Frankie Avila was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at three years of age.

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and gradually limits a person’s ability to breathe.  It is a disease that is life threatening and while Frankie did well in his earlier life, he got worse and worse and by the age of 17 he was very sick. This is when the doctors started to talk to him about having a lung transplant.

Frankie had to join a large list of people in the US who are waiting for organ transplants. Someone joins the waiting list every 10 minutes according to the American Transplant Association. In fact, in the US there are about 115,000 people on the waiting list. Avila was waiting for two years before he received his new lungs. This long wait is a common process that many have to endure. One of the main reasons for the long wait is because only 2-3% of deaths actually fit the specifications to be considered for suitable for the donation of organs such as lungs. The person who dies from brain death also has to have agreed, before dying, to be an organ donor and the doctor has to test and make sure the organ is functional.

In fact, Frankie even got a call once about a new pair of lungs but it did not work out because the lungs began to fail at the donor center. Several months after this unfortunate situation however, Frankie finally received a call about his lung transplant.  At this point, Frankie was very sick and on 6 liters of oxygen a day 24/7.

Twenty-four years after his successful lung transplant, Frankie still feels gratitude every day.

“Every breath that I can take is a blessing,” Frankie says.

Frankie says that becoming an organ donor can be a very meaningful way to give back and to give someone a second chance at life.

 

Read Frankie’s story here.

 


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