30 Days of PF: Living Courageously with IPF

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Eileen Koster

Day 20 of 30

This is Eileen Koster’s story:

My IPF journey started in 2015. Asthma, allergies, and chronic cough made my job difficult as a flight attendant, so I made an appointment to see a pulmonologist. A year later, he recommended treatment at UCLA or Cedars Sinai on the possibility of my having PF.

Initially, I sought treatment at UCLA, where I underwent a lung biopsy. It confirmed the IPF. I was also treated for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Then I read an article about Dr. Paul Noble at Cedars Sinai and secured an appointment. He asked if I wanted a transplant. I did not know how to react. Finally, I said, “not really.” The word transplant was foreign to me.

In June 2020, I started pulmonary rehab. It was a sobering moment when the nurse said I needed oxygen. My lungs were not getting better. In September, I told my pulmonologist that I wanted a transplant. Once I said those words, the idea was no longer as scary.

I needed a caretaker after the transplant but I have no relatives close by, and I didn’t have children. My friend Florence agreed to put her life on hold to help me. The feelings of security, gratitude, and friendship from Florence contributed to my quick recovery.

The call from Cedars Sinai came on March 24, 2021. With my heart racing and my neighbor driving, we arrived shortly after midnight. By 10 am, I was taken to the operating room and heard the words, “it’s a good right lung.” The surgical team used a minimally invasive procedure. Soon I was in the intensive care unit, and Dr. Tanzira Zaman was at my bedside smiling and saying everything went well. Upon release 13 days later, I went up my stairs, slowly and carefully.

My quality of life started to return. After six months, I was doing two-mile walks. Another challenge: to ride my bike. These things would not have happened if it were not for the donor’s gift of a lung, the skilled medical staff, and a universe that provided me with friendships, love, and support. Looking back on this journey, I now realize how strong, courageous, and fearless I am.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News’ 30 Days of PF campaign will publish one story per day for PF Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPF, or read the full series.