30 Days of PF: Our Group Support for a Friend Through His PF Journey

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Photo courtesy of Barbara Schmitz

Day 6 of 30

This is Barbara Schmitz’s story:

My husband, Greg, was classmates with Kevin Olson in the 1970s at the U.S. Military Academy. In October 2016, at the guys’ 40th West Point reunion, we learned that Kevin had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

At the time, Kevin was only using supplemental oxygen. But as a nurse, I knew the journey ahead would be difficult.

While Kevin was well enough to travel, he and his wife, Dana, went on some trips. One, in 2018, was to visit Greg and me for a weekend. After that, along with another classmate, Paul, and his wife, Linda, we formed what we call our “West Point Travel Group.” In October 2019, we all met in Albuquerque for the balloon festival. The trip was wonderful, but it was obvious that Kevin’s condition was deteriorating because now he needed continuous oxygen.

Little did we know the next nine months were going to be tough ones, but our group stayed connected through text messages and long Zoom calls. Kevin kept us updated on doctor visits, testing, medication, and oxygen requirement changes. We tried to keep his spirits up with jokes and funny stories. When he was told he qualified for the lung transplant list, there was a mixture of joy and fear in our group. Joy because we knew Kevin needed this to get better. Fear because of the unknown aspects of major surgery and recovery.

One week after being put on the transplant list, Kevin and Dana received the call that lungs were available. Recovery was not easy, but Kevin was committed to doing everything in his power to get well. Again, texts and Zoom calls kept us connected. When Kevin was ready for visitors, the West Point Travel Group took a road trip to St. Louis to see him and Dana. In October, we plan to meet at West Point to celebrate Kevin, Greg, and Paul’s 45th reunion.

We’re so happy to be part of Kevin’s amazing journey. There is so much to celebrate and definitely more trips to plan.

Note: Kevin Olson writes the “Riding the IPF Roller Coaster” column for Pulmonary Fibrosis News.

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.

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