30 Days of PF: We’re Walking Side by Side Through An Unknown Journey

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Photo courtesy of Rhonda Hitchcock

Day 14 of 30

This is Rhonda Hitchcock’s story:

My husband, Ric, and I sat side by side when he received his IPF diagnosis in November 2017. We had no idea what challenges to expect, so I immediately immersed myself in research.

The biggest challenge the first two years was a worsening cough. I struck gold when my research led to an IPF patient mentioning Fisherman’s Friend. Keeping a constant supply of these cough drops in every room of the house, in the car, and in his pocket, my husband would finally find some relief.

We entered 2020 and then… an episode of vertigo, two flares, a hospitalization, and oxygen 24/7 happened. That was followed by a clinical study, pulmonary rehab, a lung transplant evaluation, and cardiac surgery. At every step, we were avoiding COVID-19 exposure.

My husband gave up driving, lost 40 pounds due to a decreased appetite, and gave up yard work and taking neighborhood walks with me due to difficulty breathing. Life revolved around medical appointments.

Three things stand out during this time. Ric’s wonderful pulmonologist always patiently addressed every last question on my list as I took copious notes. I am grateful to the pulmonary rehab team for getting my husband’s body stronger before transplant and providing excellent IPF education sessions for us both. Finally, as a result of an extremely thorough lung transplant evaluation process, a 70% blockage of the coronary artery was discovered, and stent surgery followed.

The year 2021 rolled around and there was a new focus: researching lung transplants and anti-rejection medications. Then, three days after my husband’s name went on the transplant list, he got “the call.” We can’t adequately express how much we appreciated the support we both received from other transplant families.

One year after my husband’s first IPF flare, he received the gift of two healthy lungs and a chance to reclaim his independence and future. Four short months after transplant, for the first time in more than a year, my husband and I were taking a walk, side by side, through our own neighborhood.

The significance of the journey leading to that simple pleasure did not escape our notice.

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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