“Just a guy on a quest to one day living a post double lung transplant life”
Chris Zastrow is 33 years old and living on a constant supply of oxygen. When he was 3 months old, Chris was diagnosed with RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus), which is a common and usually mild virus most children get by the age of 2 according to the Mayo clinic. In Chris’ case, the virus became severe and caused permanent damage to his lungs. The virus continued to attack Chris’ lungs throughout his childhood. One day, his RSV attack became so severe that his lungs collapsed. Chris was taken on a medical flight (Mercy Flight) from the local hospital to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (WCHB) to see some specialists. Although the doctors had very little hope of Chris’ survival, he beat the odds.
Overtime, the specialists at WCHB began closely monitoring Chris who faced more severe episodes of RSV attacking his lungs. During his preteen years, Chris hit a growth spurt. As he grew in size, his RSV created further complications. On April 10, 1998, Chris went to WCHB for a routine check up. He was put through the usual tests to check his lung function. Chris was asked to walk on the treadmill at 1.5mph and 0% incline while the doctors measured his blood oxygen level. For a healthy adult, a blood oxygen level of 98% or higher is normal. As Chris began to walk, his blood oxygen level dropped into the 80s, then 70s, and finally when he reached 60s, the doctors stopped the test. They told Chris he needed to be on oxygen 24/7 from then on and get on a double lung transplant list.
“From that day forward, I would be known as that kid/guy on oxygen.”
As Chris grew older, his health plateaued so he was taken off the transplant list. He was transferred from WCHB to the University of Buffalo (UBMD) when he outgrew pediatric care. Unfortunately, after years of being on oxygen, Chris’ health declined. In the beginning, he needed 2 liters per minute of oxygen flowing through his tube. Today, he needs 6 liters per minute of oxygen. It is extremely difficult for him to do everyday tasks like walking up a flight of stairs. He has to take frequent rest breaks when walking and has an especially difficult time breathing during the cold New York winters.
In September of 2017, Chris felt his breathing becoming even more difficult than usual. He assumed it was the cold weather that was making it harder for him to breathe. However, his situation continued to get worse.
“It felt like my lungs were like sponges I just couldn’t wring out.”
On Christmas night, Chris was transported in an ambulance to Buffalo General Hospital and was diagnosed with having Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). He was given antibiotics through IVs and sent home after five days with more antibiotics. Chris began to feel better and returned to work after two weeks. Then, on January 31, 2018, his health began to decline again.
His doctors put him on additional antibiotics and a stronger dose of Prednisone (immunosuppressant). After two weeks, Chris did not improve. He was admitted into the ER again. Tests revealed that the MRSA had not returned, but this time he was found to have the Pseudomonas Aeruginosa bacteria in his lungs. He was in the hospital for another five days. Chris needed a transplant more now than ever.
On February 28, 2018, Christ met with a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic. He had been doing tests to try and qualify for a transplant at Cleveland Clinic. His pulmonologist, Dr. Turowski, suggested Chris get a transplant now while he is young and his other organs are healthy. Dr. Turowski also explained that Chris’s lungs will continue to get damaged by these infections which could lead to intubation down the road. Chris made the decision to get on the transplant list.
Chris is returning to the Cleveland Clinic this week to finish his evaluation and put himself on the double lung transplant list. It could take days, weeks, or even months for him to find a donor. However, based on Cleveland Clinic’s reputation and their average turn around time of 6 months to 1 year, Chris is hopeful for the chance to have a new pair of healthy lungs soon.
There are many sides to a lung transplant patient’s story. Before a lung transplant is even a possibility, many patients like Chris live with lung health issues for years before they are able to qualify to get on a lung transplant list. Chris understands that life after a lung transplant is not an easy one,
“The idea both from a doctor and patient perspective is to keep your “originals” as long as possible because the transplant isn’t a cure. You’re merely exchanging one set of problems for another.”
In addition to health issues, living with chronic illness and getting a double lung transplant are extremely expensive for the patient. The patients go through these life saving procedures and worry about how to pay for them.Chris is hopeful that the Cleveland Clinic will help him go from “the guy on oxygen” to “the guy with healthy new lungs” in the near future.
If you would like to support Chris on his quest for new lungs, you can donate here:
This year, we are launching our Lung Transplant Patient Support Program. This program is to help lung transplant patients find useful resources and financial assistance to improve their quality of life and increase their chance of survival.
This program will include:
If you are a lung transplant patient who would like to share your story with us, please email us at email@example.com or contact us through social media.
If you would like to help us fund or develop this program please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned to our progress with developing this program. Follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter below.
We want to thank all our donors and sponsors who have helped us continue to grow over the past two years. It is because of you that we are able to launch this program. Thank you for your support!
Elena Costello, M.A. spent 10 years of her life as a medical interpreter. She is a part of IMPACT (Interpreters for the Medical Profession through Advanced Curriculum and Teaching), a program at that helps bilingual high school students certify as medical interpreters. She encountered Lung Girl comics and The Sid Foundation at Sol-Con, a comic convention in Columbus, Ohio. Today, she is using Lung Girl comics in her medical interpretation class because, as she stated in an interview, “it was medically related but not too medical and was fun.” Because Lung Girl comics discuss medical (lung related) issues without language that is too technical and incorporate these issues into a fun story, Elena Costello found it ideal for her high school students. They used it to learn how to talk about lung issues in a conversational way.
You can learn more about Elena Costello's work here.
Lung Girl comics were created by Ananya Vahal and illustrated by Loso F. Perez of Prime Vice Studios. You can learn more about them here.
All proceeds from the sale of Lung Girl comics help support lung transplant research and awareness.
Click here to purchase Lung Girl comics.
If you have been keeping up with what we were up to in 2017, then you know that we were able to reach some major goals. As always, we give credit for our ability to reach these goals to our generous donors and sponsors.
We want to thank all of our sponsors in this blog who have been with us thus far and have continued to support us through our mission of raising funds and awareness for lung transplant research.
Last year we gained two new sponsors! We would like to thank King of Pops and Trader Joe’s for donating delicious treats for us to give away and/or fundraise with during our events. We hope to continue working with you both during our events this year.
Happy New Year!
After everything we have accomplished in 2017, we are encouraged and excited about the possibilities of 2018 for The Sid Foundation.
In 2017, The Sid Foundation made some great strides in community service and fundraising and it’s all thanks to our dedicated donors and supporters!
We had an amazing time at the High Museum of Art on Sunday, November 12, 2017!
We held 3 back to back laughter yoga sessions (full videos on Facebook).
We also had a table where we promoted lung transplant awareness by talking to many interesting visitors, having them participate in our lung transplant trivia (we had 3 winners!) to learn important facts about lung transplants, and having them take part in our raffle were two visitors won free t-shirts (raffle draw video on Facebook)!
It was an educational and exciting day for all of us. Check out the videos and pictures below to see what happened!
For more videos and pictures of the event, check out our Facebook page. Also, make sure to follow us on social media to keep up with our events!
We are extremely grateful to our supporters, donors, sponsors, and community for making this wonderful event happen!
We had a great time hosting Family Free Day at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) on Sunday, October 8th!
We had a laughter yoga session with so many participants and a busy comic book character design workshop.
We had King of Pops Popsicles and a two raffle prize winners who won a Lung Girl t-shirt.
We also had one Lung Transplant Trivia winner win a free Lung Girl comic!
Check out the pictures and videos:
Comic Book Character Design Workshop with Prime Vice Studios:
Thank you MODA for allowing us to host with you and for making us feel welcome!
And a big THANK YOU to our donors and supporters for making this event a reality!
We had an amazing time launching Lung Girl #2 at Sol-Con 2017 and Cartoon Crossroads Columbus (CXC) 2017 in Columbus, Ohio during the last weekend of October!
We met some amazing artists, children, and educators, enjoyed giving workshops and taking on panels and had a great time introducing Lung Girl #2 to the world!
Check out these pics:
Lung Girl #2 coming this Fall!
Follow us on social media for information about the book launch in September!
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @sid_foundation