I have been a season ticket holder with the Cleveland Browns football team since it returned to action in the city in 1999 after a hiatus. I am part of a group of 11 men that holds seven seats. We passionately believe in our sports franchise.
I felt the urge to write about the Browns and correlate my fandom with my idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) experience and subsequent lung transplant. This past week, a feeling of hope and excitement surrounded the Browns after a sense of hopelessness had pervaded for almost 20 years. Off-season deals have created a sense of optimism that one day, the Browns may have a shot at the Super Bowl.
When I was first diagnosed with IPF, I had a feeling of hopelessness. I knew I would persevere through this adversity in my life, but every day was an adventure. An exacerbation would bring despair, anguish, and a multitude of other negative feelings I had to deal with. People with devastating diseases like IPF are not guaranteed another day, much less a lengthy existence. My love of the Browns also brought me feelings of anguish and despair. While not on the same level, these feelings are of the same substance.
I have attended every home opener since 1999. In September 2015, unlike at previous games, I arrived at FirstEnergy Stadium from our tailgating area in a wheelchair. The walk was almost a mile. Friends took turns pushing me, and I held on for dear life when descending the bridge near the stadium. We encountered hills, bumps in the road, and people we had to navigate through. The mission was accomplished, and I made it safely to my temporary seat in the disability seating area, which had plenty of room for my wheelchair. Friends took turns sitting next to me in the extra disability seat I was given.
I almost felt “normal,” but I also was tethered to an oxygen tank and couldn’t cheer for my hometown team as boisterously as I would have liked. Several weeks later, I would be placed on the lung transplant list at the Cleveland Clinic.
The evaluation process for listing was lengthy and exhausting. I also had some complications, including an esophageal motility disorder. Some lung transplant candidates are denied for this very reason. But I was listed for a single right lung transplant. While being listed brought me new hope, the Browns won only three games that year. Nevertheless, I remained optimistic.
After 2.5 months on the transplant list, I received my donor lung. When I first regained consciousness after the lengthy procedure, I asked what time it was. As it turned out, it was game time, so I immediately asked my ICU nurse to put the Browns game on the TV. My surgery was successful, and I had the Browns to watch. What could be better?
This past week, I had my quarterly transplant appointment, and the Browns made spectacular personnel moves. My appointment was a success: My chest X-ray was excellent, the pulmonary function tests were slightly better, and my doctor was ecstatic about my overall condition.
At this time of year, NFL teams try to better their franchises. In past years, the Browns have given little reason for anyone to believe they could contend for a playoff spot with their off-season moves. But the tide has now changed. We now have a reason to believe, just as I did when I was transplanted. Pessimism has been replaced with optimism.
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.