31 Days of CF: It’s ‘All or Nothing’ in Life After a Lung Transplant

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Katie Osborn | Cystic Fibrosis News Today | CF header
Wes Hawkins

Photo courtesy of Wes Hawkins

Day 3 of 31:

This is Wes Hawkins’ story:

“You can control the disease, or you can let the disease control you.”

Powerful words that my cystic fibrosis specialist told my parents when I was diagnosed at 3 years old. Words my parents and I would live by.

Growing up, they never told me “No.” They let me live a regular childhood just like my brothers did, but with the medications thrown in the mix. I thought it was normal.

CF didn’t truly start showing its face until I was in my later years of high school and on into college. Then came the hospital stays, collapsed lungs, infections, weight loss, and coughing up blood (called hemoptysis). Just the typical run-of-the-mill CF still, right?

Upon graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2016, my life seemed to be going very smoothly, due in part to the medications Orkambi and Symdeko, both of which kept me off oxygen for years.

That is, until 2019, when I experienced an aneurysm on my main bronchial trunk that ruptured, resulting in two procedures to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, these procedures, combined with the reduced lung function — about 30% — I already had, caused my lungs to fall to 9%.

I needed a double-lung transplant to survive, and fast. After only two months on the waiting list (with a total of five offers for lungs), I received my “call” on Aug. 8, 2019.

This second chance at life is all or nothing. I returned to my career in restaurants, and my biggest feat so far would have to be fulfilling a promise I made to myself. That promise was that, if I made it to and through transplant, I would be true to myself with who I am. No more faking it.

Now, I get to live gay, and I am proud, and I have never been more at ease. I owe it all to my faith, my donor, and my support system.

Cystic Fibrosis News Today’s 31 Days of CF campaign will publish one story per day for Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month in May. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofCF, or read the full series.