(3/26/19) Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time.
It affects more than 30,000 people in the United States and many here in Northwest Arkansas.
From the outside, University of Arkansas sophomore Luke McFadden looks like a normal 20-year-old.
Growing up in Rogers, he now lives in a fraternity house on campus.
He also lives with cystic fibrosis.
“It’s put me through lots of trials and tough times,“ McFadden said. “I’ve had year long segments of going on IV antibiotics to treat bacteria that were pretty serious for my lungs. Everyday I take 30 to 40 pills.“
Twice a day for 30 minutes he undergoes treatment to clear his lungs.
“I wear this vest that kind of looks like a life jacket. It vibrates my chest and that shakes up the mucus in my lungs so I can cough that out, and that helps get lungs cleared,“ McFadden said.
And he’s not alone.
Cystic fibrosis patients are typically born with the disease and are diagnosed at a young age.
For those living with it, the average life expectancy is 47 years.
“There are a couple of things that allow people to live longer, and in my opinion is complying with the treatment that is already available, having them taken care of at a cystic fibrosis center — where they train to take care of this population,“ says Dr. Penchala S. Mittadodla with the Mercy Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.
Mercy Hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis Clinic was built almost two years ago.
It delivers state-of-the-art care and raises money to support ongoing cystic fibrosis research.
“Previously our patients had to travel 3 to 4 hours to UAMS in Little Rock, and now that we have a care center here locally we are able to get the benefit out of it,“ Mittadodla said.
McFadden is a patient here and his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, has raised $7,000 for the clinic.
“We kind of wanted to have a local impact on the cf patients in this area. We felt there is a greater need here for treatments and funds,“ McFadden said.
Doctors visits, treatments, and trips to the clinic are now his normal.
Giving back is just one way he can shed a light on the silent disease.
“Letting people know about the clinic like this — because cf care is a lot different than going to your primary care doctor. There has to be a lot of procedures followed. There’s a lot of specific test CF patients have to do in the clinic,“ McFadden said.
And while researchers are making strides in CF treatment, there’s still more to be done.
“We believe that CF means cure found, and I think it’s going to be in the near future,“ Mittadodla said.