For many of us, our earliest memories are innocent, and happy. Aaron Carroll’s earliest memory is different: “Back then, hospital cribs had metal bars. My earliest memory is my little toddler hands on the bars looking out into the hospital pod.”
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Aaron was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was six months old and hospital visits were frequent.
Due to those youthful hospital stays he must, to this day, sleep with lights on. And not just any light -- the bright white fluorescent light used in hospitals.
“I'm used to that hue,” explains Aaron. “It's very strange.”
For most people, Aaron Carroll’s life would be considered one of misfortune, but Aaron Carroll is not among those people. In spite of his struggles with cystic fibrosis and other serious illnesses, he considers himself fortunate. And now that IQAir has given Aaron the gift of cleaner air, he can look toward a continually brighter future.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes the naturally occurring mucus in the body’s organs and tissues to thicken (1). The complications that arise from this progressive condition include blockages, infections, and inflammation to the affected areas.
In addition to causing damage to the digestive tract, pancreas, and liver, cystic fibrosis most commonly impacts the lungs where clotted mucus clogs the airways, which makes breathing difficult and can ultimately lead to respiratory failure. The mucus also traps bacteria, increasing the risks of infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis (2).
Scarring of the lungs, known as bronchiectasis, is a known consequence of the disease, as is pneumothorax, which can cause a partial or complete lung collapse from air that leaks out of the lung into the chest wall space (3).
Unfortunately, a life with cystic fibrosis can be a life filled with difficult medical treatments.
An uphill climb
At around 15, Aaron’s illness worsened, and he started to get “cleanouts,” which are stays in the hospital during which a patient receives antibiotics and respiratory treatments multiple times a day, possibly along with physical therapy and other care (4).
For Aaron, these hospital visits were two-to-four-weeks-long.
“You’re in isolation at least once a year,” he states. “One year I went three times.”
The way gets smoother
Aaron remembers his lung function improving in his later teens, but cleanouts were still a yearly routine.
At 23, Aaron reconnected with a young lady, Tessia, who he had known since he was five. Two years later they were married.
“My wife is just everything to me,” Aaron gushes. “She has been my nurse. She's been my best friend.”
Aaron and Tessia added two “incredible” sons to their household.
Aaron’s main activity is computing, which he taught himself and he has become quite proficient. He also enjoys collecting, and manages a community of about 20,000 people who are enthusiasts of CNC art, which is machined pieces of steel made into art. But his favorite items to acquire are Optimus Prime collectibles.
“Every time I had a surgery, or I had to go to the hospital, my mom would buy me a Lego or a Transformer like Optimus Prime. I identify him now as a source of strength.”
After the first couple of years of marriage, Aaron was forced to rely on an oxygen machine to breathe and a wheelchair to get around but he still “enjoyed a very full life.” However, the disease’s progression ultimately necessitated a double lung transplant to help improve his quality of life and hopefully extend it.
“They gave me the transplant five years ago,” states Aaron. “It was May 2nd. The transplant team (from the Norton Thoracic Institute) at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, which is the best in the country, say I was the fastest patient to ever wake up, to walk, and the fastest patient they've ever had discharged after a transplant.”
Pictured: Aaron Carroll after his double lung transplant in May 2017.
Aaron’s new lungs, or as he calls them, “preowned lungs” are now clear of cystic fibrosis even though the rest of his body still harbors it. A little time after the surgery, he and Tessia celebrated the birth of their second baby boy.
“Getting the transplant and being able to have my youngest son was like a miracle,” Aaron expresses with great emotion. “I got in touch with the donor family because I wanted to tell them that they didn't just save my life, they created another with their gift to me.”
Aaron gets the gift of clean air
In addition to all his other medical struggles, Aaron has “really terrible allergies.” A friend in his online community gifted him an Atem desk air purifier from IQAir to help reduce Aaron’s allergic reactions.
“I immediately noticed less allergy issues,” he remembers.
Shortly thereafter, he acquired IQAir’s top-of-the-line room air purifier, the HealthPro Plus.
Aaron reports that after every transplant clinic visit since he received his IQAir systems, his doctors noted a pronounced increase in lung function.
“That is absolutely incredible,” reveals Aaron and adds, “It's such a blessing. I was able to put my Atem desk unit next to my bed so when I sleep it blows right on me. And we have the big unit in the living room.”
The journey continues
Aaron’s doctors marveled at his resilience. Looking forward, the medical team has identified him as a prime candidate for a second transplant when the time comes, since his lung function has shown great improvement and he follows their directions “to the letter of the law,” helping to ensure positive outcomes.
“I'm very grateful to you and your company. My doctor said you don't really have transplant patients five years out where their lung function is still climbing. I think that is in no small part due to IQAir.”
Into the future
When he was young, Aaron was told that people with cystic fibrosis don’t usually live past 18 years of age. He is now 39 years old and continues moving forward.
“I just love my life. I don't have the words to thank you for everything you have done for me.”