SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than 30,000 people in the United States are living with Cystic Fibrosis, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry.
The genetic disease causes persistent lung infections and over time, limits the ability to breathe.
At just 8-months old Eric Horpedahl was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The disease affects cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices — causing them to be sticky and thick, plugging passageways like the lungs.
“I was relatively healthy most of my life as far as most CF patients go. Around 2017, I was starting to get sick a lot. I was in the hospital with lung infections, my lung function was decreasing quite a bit,” Horpedahl said.
His daily routine consisted of nebulizers, daily oxygen and a therapy vest that continuously vibrated to help loosen the mucus.
Dawn Hentges says watching her fiance’s health decline was difficult.
“As the years went by and as we spent more time together I just kind of slowly watched him, you know, get skinnier and sicker and that was probably the scariest moment because I knew that there was really nothing that I could do,” Hentges said.
In late 2017 Horpedahl was placed on a lung donor list and after only a few weeks he got a call that brought a lot of emotions.
“It was very scary and then just when you get that call, you have to drop everything and go down there,” Horpedahl said.
“I was very scared, of course. I mean it’s a huge life changing thing and you know, you kind of, you never really know what to expect until you go through it,” Hentges said.
In January of 2018, Horpedahl had the surgery and has been doing great ever since.
“Before he had his transplant he, he was out of breath walking just from our kitchen to our living room which is a mere few steps away,” Hentges said.
The surgery doesn’t eliminate CF, but it has improved his health and made breathing on his own much easier.
“I’m just hoping to stay healthy, hoping to, you know, live as long as I can. So I’m just trying to keep these new lungs really clean, really healthy,” Horpedahl said.
In hopes of raising awareness the two have participated in CF walks in Omaha and are looking forward to this year’s CF walk in Sioux Falls, that Horpedahl gets to join in on for the first time thanks to his new lungs.
“I just want to raise awareness so maybe they can eventually find a cure someday,” Horpedahl said.
If you’d like to help raise awareness and funding for research you can participate in the 5k walk taking place this Saturday in Sioux Falls.
For more information, click here.