Meet Arturo "Hito" Bazan
I had never heard of pulmonary fibrosis (PF) or interstitial lung disease (ILD) before the spring of 2020. As a member of the Houston Police Department and an active member of my community, I had the next ten years of my life planned out before retirement. Unfortunately, like all of us in the spring of 2020, my life was about to be forever changed in multiple ways.
In the early days of the pandemic, none of us knew what was happening and, as a police officer, my fellow officers and I were asked to work a significant amount of overtime. Extra strain was put on the police forces, meaning longer days with little rest. When I first became sick, I thought it resulted from all the time I had been working.
On June 19, 2020, I woke up with a fever and thought I was coming down with a cold or COVID-19. However, my wife Sheryle, a Registered Nurse, quickly realized it was something much worse. I can honestly say that she saved my life because of her quick thinking.Sheryle used a pulse oximeter on me, and it showed that my oxygen levels were in the 70% range. After seeing my oxygen levels, we quickly drove to Conroe Hospital, where I was admitted and diagnosed with COVID-19 and double pneumonia. My vitals kept falling, and no one knew what exactly was happening. Since I was one of the newer cases, the hospital staff did not know how to treat my symptoms best. We even had State Representatives reaching out, trying to provide resources for help. It was at this moment when I realized I was in trouble.
Taking a turn for the worse
With my health deteriorating, the doctors had no choice but to fly me to Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in The Woodlands, where I was induced into a medical coma for two months. To wake up and realize that I had missed out on two months of my life was heart-wrenching. At the time, I was on two liters of oxygen while resting, and once I started to become mobile, my oxygen would drop to near 80%.
At this time, I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, resulting from the long-term effects of COVID-19. The doctors told me I would need a lung transplant to survive. I was at the lowest point of my life after hearing my diagnosis, and I thought this would be the end of my life. After I was discharged, I remembered being in the parking lot with Sheryle and feeling we had no direction on what to do next. Despite our feelings of hopelessness, we decided together that we were going to fight this disease.
I was unprepared for this disease's emotional toll on me. I had to retire early from my career as a police officer because I could no longer complete my tasks as an officer. All of these personal setbacks led me to a feeling of extreme isolation.
Connecting with the PFF
My wife was the one who found the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF), and we both devoured all the information that the Foundation provided. Before finding the PFF, I was constantly frustrated and depressed because I had never had any health obstacles before my PF diagnosis. For my entire life, I was always an active member of my community, and now, even getting dressed was a difficult task.
With the support of the PFF, I connected with their Ambassador Program and finally heard that I was not alone in this journey. The PFF Ambassador Program encourages and empowers patients, caregivers, lung transplant recipients, family members, and those who have lost a loved one to serve as spokespeople for the PF community on behalf of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. Listening to their stories gave me hope. There were people who had the same disease as me, and they were still going on vacations, being active, and living life to the fullest. For the first time since I went to the hospital in June of 2020, I felt hopeful.
Working with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, I learned that over 50,000 individuals are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease each year. The PFF's goal is to provide families, such as mine, with the resources to help their loved one live with this disease, and to fund research for new treatments and a cure. Only with your support can we make that a reality. Please consider making a gift to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation TODAY.
A new outlook on life
Since connecting with the PFF, my family and I have participated in the 2022 and 2023 PFF Walk - Dallas, and I have become a PFF Ambassador. One of the critical things I learned when talking to the other PFF Ambassadors was that I needed to change my mindset about my life. I needed to understand that just because I have PF doesn't mean that my future is over; it has just changed. Connecting with other people with ILD, like the PFF Ambassadors, helped me realize that there will be change and you must accept it.
Whenever I engage with the PFF, I leave in the best mood. I always feel relieved that I learned something new and, most notably, that I have hope.
My new normal
Three years after my hospitalization, my journey is far from over. Although I still face many health challenges, because of an effective pulmonary rehabilitation program prescribed by my doctor, my lung function has significantly improved and I am no longer in need of a lung transplant. I am living well with pulmonary fibrosis.
I am enjoying teaching Law Enforcement classes at the local high school. If you're living with the disease like I am, I want to remind your that your future is not over. It's just different. Only with your support of the PFF can we continue to make a positive difference in the lives of all those diagnosed with the disease.
Please join me this giving season to change the world for those with pulmonary fibrosis and interstitial lung disease. Make your gift today!
Arturo "Hito" Bazan