Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 6 months old, Brandon Rees led a fairly healthy life up until his early 20s. Around age 23, his health started to deteriorate and within three years Brandon had to quit his job and move back in with his parents to get the care that he needed.
By the time he was 27, Brandon had developed hemoptysis, which resulted in him frequently coughing up blood. His lung function dropped to 18 percent, and he was placed on oxygen. Brandon's doctor told him that the time had come to seriously consider a lung transplant. “I was so sick that I wanted the lung transplant very badly,” said Brandon. “I was more scared of something happening to me before the transplant than I was of the transplant itself.”
Getting onto the Transplant Waiting List
After an evaluation that lasted a month and a half, Brandon was put onto the transplant waiting list. “The hardest part of being on the waiting list was maintaining my weight,” said Brandon. “It was very difficult for me to keep a good BMI because I had been running a fever for about a year, so I had no appetite. I had to force myself to eat, and was eventually given a G-tube for feeding.”
In 2008, after just three months on the waiting list, Brandon underwent the lung transplantation and spent a month in the hospital recuperating before moving back into his parent's home. Although the surgery was successful, over the next several years, Brandon experienced a number of complications.
Not long after the transplant, Brandon developed gastroparesis, a partial paralysis of the stomach, and bronchial stenosis, a narrowing of the airways. He had trouble sleeping for six months, and didn't start to feel comfortable with his new set of lungs until more than a year post-transplant. “It didn't feel great to breathe right away,” explained Brandon. “I wish someone would have told me that I wouldn't necessarily feel an immediate difference in breathing. I didn't know that I would have to concentrate on breathing, and relearn how to take deep breaths.”
Although Brandon made frequent trips to the hospital for the first five years following the transplant, he was able to move out of his parents' house eight months after the procedure.
Seven years later, Brandon says he feels better than ever. His health gradually improved following the procedure, and has remained consistent for the past three years. He now works full-time, plays in a band and participates in a beach volleyball league. These are all things that Brandon wanted to do previously, but couldn't.
And even though he takes more pills now than he did before the transplant, he still thinks it's easier than doing treatments several times a day. “For me, getting the lung transplant was the best decision,” said Brandon. “I think that this was the only way I was going to survive.”