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An Urgent Call to Listen to Your Body

McKenzie Swider has idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a debilitating lung disease that causes progressive scarring in the lungs, but she is not giving up.

“I’m only 28 years old and I’m living as if I’m at the end of my life,” said McKenzie Swider, a wife and mother of five from Puyallup, Washington. “I’m trying to manage the best I can, but this disease has taken everything from me.”

In the fall of 2017, Swider began losing vision, feeling dizzy, and coughing so hard she couldn’t catch her breath. When she described her symptoms to the doctor, she was told that she was probably dehydrated and to drink more water. So she did.

But five months later, Swider woke up in the middle of the night with her heart pounding, struggling to breathe. Her husband drove her to the emergency room at the local hospital where they took scans of her chest and lungs. There she received the devastating diagnosis of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and was told that she had already lost fifty percent of her lung function.

IPF is the most common form of pulmonary fibrosis, which affects more than 200,000 Americans annually. There is no known cure.

Swider was an active mom who enjoyed running, playing with her children, volunteering with her church, and working at a nursery. Now, she has a difficult time even making a trip to the grocery store.  She uses supplemental oxygen around the clock and is on the waiting list for a lung transplant.

But she is not giving up. She has become a volunteer ambassador for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF).

“I want to help doctors and people in health care better understand this disease so they can catch it in the beginning,” said Swider. “As an Ambassador for the PFF, I have found new meaning by raising awareness of pulmonary fibrosis and encouraging people to self-advocate, so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

She added, “If your body is yelling at you, listen.”

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