Cystic fibrosis patients face need for double lung transplant

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – An estimated 35,000 people in the United States are affected by cystic fibrosis, or CF, a genetic disorder that causes problems with breath and digestion and often leads to the need for a double lung transplant.

Fort Lauderdale resident Kati Gregory was born with CF and wasn’t sure she would ever achieve the dream of being a mom.

The disease causes a thickly, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and other organs.

By 2015, her lungs were failing.

“I was wheelchair bound, I couldn’t walk across from me to you without just being so out of breath. That was not something I was used to prior to that,” Gregory said.

That same year she underwent a life-saving double lung transplant.

“Kati was a really unique experience in that when I met her I don’t think she really knew how sick and how far along her disease had gotten,” said Dr. Jason Turowski, a pulmonologist with Cleveland Clinic Ohio.

He performed Gregory’s surgery in September 2015.

“I think it’s, so far, from the standpoint of transplants, Kati has been an example of a real success story,” Turowski said.

Living with a fresh set of lungs meant Gregory would need to take anti-rejection medications for life, making the chances of a future pregnancy risky.

“I kind of just wrote it off that it wasn’t in my cards,” she said.

Thanks to in vitro fertilization, of IVF, and the support of two surrogates, Gregory and her husband Gerome now have a toddler and twins.

“Having gone on and lived a successful life, having a really great job, getting married and having three babies, that’s incredibly unique. I’ve never seen that before until Kati,” said Turowski.

When Gregory and her husband count their blessings, the donor who saved her life is at the top of the list.

“It’s just something I will cherish forever and the fact that she made that choice to be an organ donor is why I’m here,” she said.

Lung transplantation is not that common.

About 2,000 people receive a lung transplant every year, compared to almost 18,000 kidney transplants.

About the Authors:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.