And even though it’s the last day of Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month I still think it’s important to mention that it’s Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.
Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis or IPF is: a rare disease characterized by progressive replacement of normal lung tissue with scar tissue. The scarred tissue becomes thick and stiff making it harder for the lungs to exchange oxygen. Idiopathic means there is no known cause of the disease, pulmonary refers to the lungs, and the scarring is called fibrosis…At this time there is no cure or treatment to reverse the scarring in the lungs.
I spent a little time with a friend of mine the other day.
I had been watching Ken Burn’s The Vietnam War on PBS so I asked him,
“Have you been watching PBS?”
“No,” he said. “I was there, I don’t need to watch it on TV.”
My friend flew a Cobra helicopter in Vietnam.
One day a bullet came through the bottom of his helicopter and traveled through his foot and into his lower leg. The surgeon warned him before surgery that he may lose the leg, but thankfully when he woke up it was still there.
During my visit he told me the story of comrades returning to the US on a civilian airliner and having people spit on them at the airport.
He however didn’t have to worry about that, because that bullet that went through his foot had him coming home in blue pajamas on a stretcher in the back of a Military Airlift Command C-141.
Once home though, he told me about his first contact with the public; he and his wife attended a church service in Maryland. Now in civilian clothes, before the service, he and his wife stood with a crowd of people outside the church waiting. Someone asked my friend how he had broken his leg.
“I didn’t break it,” he responded. “I got shot in Vietnam.”
After hearing my friend’s response, the crowd parted. It wasn’t out of respect or patriotism.
When he and his wife entered the church and sat down, they were the only ones in their pew that otherwise would have sat about 20 people.
No one else in the church that morning chose to sit with my friend and his wife and his Vietnam shot up leg.
They sat all by themselves.
I dreamed I was holding a little bird in my hand. After holding on to the bird for a while I passed it off to an older man, my father I think.
I don’t remember much else about it but the next morning while having coffee, my wife shared with me the daily Bible verse she receives via text each day. It was a photo of a hand holding a bird with Matthew 25:21 as the overlay.
I told her about my dream and holding this little bird in my hand. Hey, maybe this was a sign for me, I thought. And maybe not.
But even if this scripture had no relevance to me, it had great relevance to my friend.
My friend now sits at home connected to machines that provide him additional oxygen to breath. He monitors his oxygen saturation frequently. Yet in spite of the two machines making oxygen and the 50 foot of oxygen tubing he drags around with him; simple activities like going to a different room, taking the stairs, going to the bathroom are major undertakings. It’s not that he is unable to leave his home, it’s just that now the effort required to make such a move seems not worth it.
My friend; a decorated national hero in my opinion, a writer, a historian, engineer, a pillar of his church, a father, and a husband…has IPF.
In his lifetime he was shot and wounded and ostracized; but just like the scripture said, he was a good and faithful servant and he overcame. And he was set over many things.
He entered into the joy of the Lord.
And he has shared that to the benefit of many of us since.
Many of us Americans behaved badly and did stupid things during the Vietnam War. Many are regrettable now looking back.
Maybe twenty years from now we will look back on this time of “taking a knee” or hiding in the tunnel during the National Anthem and regret those actions too. But then maybe not. Maybe the hatred of this President will trump reasonable decision making like it did forty five or fifty years ago.
I am not a political person and this is not a political commentary.
But we do have many national treasures like my friend out there.
They are all around us. We see them in church, we see them at work, we see them on motorcycles, we see them in wheelchairs parading down the airport terminal as they come off their Honor Flights.
They fill our cemeteries.
Then there are those, like my friend, who in spite of being good and faithful servants and after all the sacrifice they have been through, end up with IPF or something else that limits their ability to live normal lives.
But still, if we are lucky we can sit with them, talk to them, and learn from them.
I hope we learned something from our experience in Vietnam. We may have also hated that President at the time and we may have hated the war.
But we have to remember who it really affected, who it was who took the spit, the proverbial bullet and for some, the actual bullet in those causes.
Those folks still bear the scars.
We have to remember as we protest today’s causes, the spit doesn’t always land on those who it was intended to hit.
And it opens old wounds.
But I digress.
This concept for me started out being about pulmonary fibrosis; a dream about having a bird in my hand that came to some clarity with scripture the next morning: and, associating all of that with living a life of service.
But I hope I was able to bring some awareness to you about IPF. I hope you click a link and read about it and think about providing some support to find a solution, other than a lung transplant, that will allow people like my friend to be out mentoring others and not sitting in his living room.
And as for my dream and that scripture, I hope it means that I have been faithful over a few things, and as a result will be set over many things myself. If I can ever impact half as many lives as my friend has, I know I will experience joy too.
If you would like to support Pulmonary Fibrosis research, visit Angela and Alicia Snyder-Miller’ s team Run (for) Forrest Run! page of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. They have a goal to reach that should easily be exceeded as they run to raise awareness of IPF.