Confronting IPF together

Find out why Alberto now celebrates two birthdays – and why he and his wife Maria don’t take a single breath for granted.

I celebrated two birthdays this year. One on 5th April, when I turned 66, and another on 16th May, when I also turned two – as it is two years since my lung transplant gave me a second chance of life.

Alberto, from Valencia in Spain, was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) – a rare lung disease that results in scarring of the lungs. The diagnosis completely changed his life: due to its nature, patients with IPF have a limited life expectancy.

Maria, his wife for over 40 years, had started to notice the symptoms before his diagnosis.

He would get very tired. He was always very short of breath. We didn’t know what it was. Even his colleagues would notice when they spoke to him on the phone, and would ask if he had been running around.

Luckily, Alberto and Maria went to see their doctor shortly after noticing symptoms, and Alberto was referred to a pulmonologist, who diagnosed IPF.

The earlier IPF is diagnosed, the better for patients to help stabilise the condition.

However, IPF usually gets worse over time. As his disease progressed, Alberto says he felt as though “his goals began to collapse.”

"We wanted to take a cruise. And to travel to see our children more often. That all had to change. I felt as though I was suffocating, I couldn’t breathe. I had to carry oxygen everywhere I went."

Maria could see her husband’s fighting spirit.

He wanted to live as long as possible and with as normal a life as possible. He is a fighter, and he did everything to hold on to his independence. He followed the instructions of the doctor, took the treatment as instructed, and adjusted his lifestyle.

And even though the disease only directly affected Alberto, Maria played a very important role in helping him live with it.
On 16th May 2016, Alberto and Maria received the phone call they had been hoping for. Alberto received a double lung transplant later the same day. The operation was a success.

It is not always easy to stay active with IPF, but Alberto has always done what he could to stay as healthy as possible and was involved planning his disease management with his doctors.

"I do exercises that they taught me in the hospital. Breathing, stretching, weights and on the bike," said Alberto. "It’s certainly worth the effort."

No man is an island, and no disease can be fought alone.

For Alberto and Maria, they have gained more cherished time together.

"I hope this lasts many years. As long as we are as we are, I will be delighted,” says Alberto. ”We are from a little village in a mountain area, with lots of pine trees. We will go this summer. And we will breathe the fresh air."

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