Cystic Fibrosis Kryptonite: The Common Cold

Originally Published on www.healthcomu.com on December 2, 2014

A couple of months ago ushered in the symbolic beginning of fall in our house. The transition from health to sickness is sudden and relentless. It was a beautiful day and everything seemed so right in my world. I was in the kitchen when I heard a muffled sound from the bedroom, a cough. My heart stopped. My mind immediately rolls through the countless possibilities. Second and third coughs ensue and the conclusion is clear—the dreaded cold going around school unfairly settled in my little one. I watch her closely, my ears unable to hear conversations around me, my only focus is now that small noise that so many don’t even hear. Within moments I could deduce that it was the start of countless worry filled nights.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a sneaky savage, robbing years and stealing dreams. An individual with CF can harbor a single bacterium for months or even years without a pulmonary exacerbation, controlling it with respiratory therapy and intermittent antibiotics. Then, like a thief in the night, a simple respiratory virus is introduced, and a war begins. The body is a humbling machine but it can only do so much. The multisyllabic devil that has taken residence in the body is like a guest that has overstayed his or her welcome. The body becomes used to it and turns its back to fight the new invader. Herein lies the problem, as the real enemy has just been left unattended to wreak complete havoc on my daughter’s body. So, while a cold is unfortunate for all children, to my daughter it is the beginning of hours of treatments, an array of antibiotics that threaten her body in countless ways, and the unnerving reality of the control CF has over our lives and our future.

The options are limited. She is unable to fight cystic fibrosis and a common cold at the same time without ammunition of some sort. Phone calls are made; emails flood her practitioner’s inbox. There is a window of time when you can fight the infection with the hope of maintaining lung function; however, there is always the possibility of permanent, unforgiving damage. I cannot live with that. So, the week of hell begins. Every treatment that seems to steal our day is doubled and even tripled when her body demands it to be. The hope to avoid a hospital stay gives power to charge through sleepless nights and coughing fits that seem impossible to live through. Then the questions begin to surface about whether our efforts are enough. And then just like the thief came into the night, he leaves. The coughs reside and the smile comes back. We won…this time.