Say hello to John (John_R), a father, grandfather and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) survivor. Sound familiar? Last year he shared his story about life after a double lung transplant and the importance of considering a lung transplant early. This year, John started a Facebook group to live-stream pulmonary fibrosis (PF) support group meetings and conferences.
“I am very passionate about honoring the precious gift provided by my donor family and in living a life worthy of their generosity.”
John received a bilateral lung transplant on January 1st, 2015, and believes he’s alive today thanks to his donor family and care team at UT Southwestern in Dallas. Now, he’s committed to raising awareness for the needs of the pulmonary fibrosis community.
Life after transplant
John’s life before transplant included the use of supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day, and what he calls, “an eminent expiration date” in his near future. He couldn’t visit family in Colorado or the higher elevations of New Mexico due to the altitude, and every breath was a struggle.
“The biggest thing about life after lung transplant is that I no longer have a firm expiration date, I can have hope. I can go to Colorado and attend medical conferences. I can help others by sharing my experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained. I have also learned to cherish the moments that make living wonderful. A moment of kindness, shared empathy or even a smile mean so much to me now. The rest doesn’t really matter. Life is good.”
Fighting isolation with the help of Facebook
According to John, many people diagnosed with IPF have never even heard of the disease prior to hearing of it from their doctor. Then they learn that their disease has no cure and only a couple of treatments that slow the progress of fibrosis for some. Online research about IPF offers little comfort either. John’s experience motivated him to start an online support group using Facebook Live.
“IPF can be a very isolating disease. Your friends and family have never heard of it and you are reminded of your mortality with every breath. In my case, each trip to the pulmonologist was just proof that my disease was progressing. A support group can help with the feelings of isolation and loneliness, plus provide valuable information and hope for the future.”
After trying a paid platform to share their meetings, but finding it too difficult for some participants to access, John thought Facebook Live seemed a good option. Once someone has joined the group they get a notification when the support group goes live.
“They are then just one click away from being able to join the meeting and participate with folks who share the same journey.”
Though the Facebook group is new and participation is growing, John hopes that it will help people understand that they are not alone, and that he can provide some valuable information about IPF and lung transplants.
Managing with PatientsLikeMe
“I use PatientsLikeMe to track my data and as a platform to share with others in our community. I can easily view my lung function both before and after my transplant, track my weight loss and ensure I am maintaining a healthy weight, and keep an eye on A1C, cholesterol, and all my medications in one place. PatientsLikeMe has also given me the opportunity to participate in studies and share my voice with the healthcare community.
“The pulmonary fibrosis community on PatientsLikeMe was my anchor when I was coming to terms with my IPF diagnosis, and continues support now that I’ve had a transplant.”
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