Editor’s note: Brad Dell, the head of columns for BioNews Services, wrote this column.
When I walked into Kim Fredrickson’s room in the intensive care unit (ICU), my emotions ripped me this way and that — grief, relief, anxiety, joy — all fluctuating and overwhelming. Once Kim smiled at me compassionately, though, I felt a sense of peace.
Kim has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and awaits a double-lung transplant at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). She has been hospitalized since Feb. 6 and celebrated her birthday while there, on Feb. 11. The next day, she got her belated birthday present: news that she’d be listed for a lung transplant five days later.
We met through our work at BioNews Services, which publishes this column. Kim has inspired me time and time again, not only through her tenderhearted columns but also via numerous encouraging messages she’s sent me over the past year. We quickly transitioned from colleagues to friends.
It’s not easy seeing anyone in the ICU, but I carried a significant context through the doorway: I received my double-lung transplant at UCSF in January 2017 due to cystic fibrosis complications. I once lay in an ICU room very much like Kim’s. While there, people had to communicate with me through writing because antibiotics had made me deaf. Similarly, but differently, Kim writes on paper to communicate because she has a tracheostomy that provides continuous oxygen flow from her throat to her scarred lungs.
The Pulmonary Fibrosis News forums are a place to connect with other patients, share tips and talk about the latest research. Check them out today!
Kim has special eyes that convey a vast lexicon. I read “I’m fine” when she glanced my way, then her eyes flickered to worry for me. Using her pen, she asked if I was bothered by being in the ICU again. That’s typical of Kim, worrying about me when she’s the hospitalized one! Kim has a background in therapy and, well, she didn’t entirely leave that passion behind when IPF struck her lungs.
I told her I had thought I would be afraid in the ICU, but that it’s now a piece of my history that led to the most beautiful times of my life. Since my transplant, I’ve traveled all over, spent countless hours laughing, ate food fit for an emperor, conquered my disease, rediscovered joy. I rambled about my delight that she could soon experience the same.
I try to keep realistic with people who await transplant by avoiding phrases like “you will.” But Kim and I both are faith-centric souls and I know without a doubt that, “You will see beauty in all things mundane once you get your transplant.”
Kim will get her transplant. I hope it’s very soon so she can take deep breaths of flowery spring air.
Our friend, Kathleen Sheffer, had a heart-lung transplant due to pulmonary arterial hypertension, and she visited Kim with me. “If you could beat breast cancer five years ago, you can beat this,” Kathleen said. (Yes, Kim survived breast cancer.)
Kathleen is correct. We can’t control the physical, but we can control how we react. The most difficult battle in transplant is the mental one. “Kim the Therapist,” who survived breast cancer with her sunny psyche intact, will push through this challenge stronger than before.
It’s not only Kim’s strength that will push her through but also the fortitude of her support network. Kim showed us a calendar packed with people eagerly taking turns to watch over her as she regains her health over the days and years to come. Even Dr. Noah Greenspan, her heroic pulmonary rehab therapist from New York City, visited twice.
Thoughts and Motivations: Salute! My Visit with Kim Fredrickson! hosted by Dr. Greenspan from Pulmonary Wellness on Vimeo.
And of course, she has you, her beloved readers. And Kim has a lot of readers who love her, so please comment with your words of encouragement.
Before I left, Kim gifted me her book titled, “The Power of Positive Self-Talk.” I have self-esteem issues, so I read some of it that night. Afterward, I looked into my mirror at home, declaring, “I’m strong because I survived a lung transplant.” Hey, it worked. I did feel stronger.
One day, Kim will do the same exercise.
Note from Kim: “I want to convey that I miss writing my column and sharing with all of you. My decline happened quickly and I was unable to let my readers know what was happening. I look forward to resuming writing my column after transplant. I send my love and best wishes!”
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.