May 02 2010

Andrea Eisenman

To be honest, when I was in my teens and early 20s, I wasn’t disciplined about my treatment and my health. Looking back, I guess I was resentful that I had to take care of myself in a way that my friends didn’t. Being compliant and working and trying to have a social life – sometimes it was too much. I was hospitalized several times for pneumonia, and my prognosis was not good.

In my early 30s as my health was deteriorating, I was placed on the lung transplant list. I was dependent on oxygen, and I had colds that lasted for two or three weeks. My lungs were bleeding, and I had hemoptysis frequently. But even as I struggled, I knew I had to be compliant with my treatments, and I exercised in whatever way I could – usually on the treadmill or by swimming with my oxygen on.

In 2000, at the age of 35, I received a double-lung transplant. Despite my condition, it wasn’t an easy decision. There was no guarantee it would go well; there were many risky factors. After my transplant, I was in the hospital for 13 days, but felt elated when I could take a deep breathe without coughing. I hadn’t been able to do that since I was about ten years old.

Recently, I passed the ten-year anniversary of my transplant, and I’m doing things that I never expected to do. I try to do up to an hour-and-a-half of anything cardiovascular every day to keep my lungs clear. To maintain my health, I go to the gym, swim, play tennis, and bike ride. I have been in the transplant games twice, and have won the silver and bronze medal. I never expected to be able to do these things; I just hoped that my transplant would enable me to get off of oxygen and be a little more independent.

One of my inspirations during my toughest years has been participating in and serving the CF community. For many years, I felt isolated because I didn’t know anyone with CF. It wasn’t until 1997 when I attended a CFRI conference in California that I met other people who were living and working with CF. These were people I could talk to, who would understand everything I was going through. At the conference, I met a volunteer who worked on the CF Roundtable newsletter, and she asked me to join the Board. I began to volunteer on the publication, which I still do today. I also volunteer for the NY Organ Donor Network, and I participate in CF walks.

I appreciate every moment I have and the surprises that life brings. For example, one day I was walking my dog in the park, met a man named Steve, and we married in September 2008.

I am committed to staying compliant because I never want to slide back into sickness.