Life with cystic fibrosis: A Louisville man's story of triumph

Life with cystic fibrosis: A Louisville man's story of triumph

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Imagine feeling like every breath you taking is through a small straw; that's what it's like to have Cystic Fibrosis.

Thick mucus clogs the lungs and leads to life threatening infections.

Zack Barnum was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 7 days old.  Doctors told his parents they didn't have high expectations for his life.

"When I was born, it was like ten to 12-years old was the life expectancy for anyone with Cystic Fibrosis at the time.  So it was, I'm sure, pretty difficult for them," Barnum said.

He made it through elementary school and high school playing soccer, which he believed helped him stay healthy.  Every two years, cystic fibrosis would lead to a week-long hospital stay.

"We jokingly referred to it as a tune up.  Because we'd go in.  Pump me full of antibiotics and some other stuff," Barnum said.

Barnum graduated from college, got married and had twin girls named Brooke and Alexis.  A few years ago, with so much to live for, his lungs were starting to give up.

"I was down to 15 percent lung capacity.  Oxygen 24/7.  Was trying to still work.  Worked part time.  Was pretty much constantly in a state of exhaustion at that point," Barnum said.

His only option was a double lung transplant.

"The doctors said when they put me on the waiting list I had six months.  That was if I didn't get sick again," Barnum said.

Four months into that wait he got the call and the transplant was a success.

Several months later, he took part in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundations fundraiser which has participants going up and down 3000 steps at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

"Part of rehabilitation, they want you to keep exercising to get the lungs into good shape," Barnum said.

Zack made it halfway but this Saturday he plans to do the whole thing.

"I can breathe again. I can exercise.  I can work.  Play with my kids.  Get to see birthdays, another anniversary with my wife. All things that might not have been possible without a donor," Barnum said.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Climb for the "L" of it takes place Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.  Check in is at 8 a.m. and the climb starts at 9 a.m. For more information on the event, click here

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