Something wasn’t right with Kyle Schwendemann. He came back from an ice fishing trip with pale skin and purple lips, recalls his mother, Melissa. She knew his cystic fibrosis was behind it.
Cystic fibrosis is a hereditary disease that causes thick mucus to accumulate in a person’s lungs and sinuses. The disease also makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients from food.
Kyle, who was diagnosed when he was 3 months old, was no stranger to University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. His cystic fibrosis landed him there a couple of times every year, even though he has kept up with his therapies, which include taking a handful of vitamins and enzymes daily and wearing his lung-clearing chest compression vest three or four times a day.
But he was in good hands. Thanks to research conducted at the University over the last 50 years, the life expectancy for patients of the Minnesota Cystic Fibrosis Center is a full decade longer than the national average.
The University is also the birthplace of the widely used chest compression vest, invented and perfected by pioneering physician-scientist Warren Warwick, M.D., who recently retired after five decades as a leader in his field.
So when Kyle checked into the hospital in March 2009 to have a part of his right lung removed—the part where mucus kept getting stuck, causing most of his hospitalizations—his family knew he was in the right place.
Since recovering from that surgery, 14-year-old Kyle is back on skates where he belongs.
“Kyle is a hockey player first, a young man with cystic fibrosis second,” says Terri Laguna, M.D., Kyle’s pulmonologist at Amplatz Children’s Hospital. “Since his surgery, he has spent more time on the ice and less in the hospital.”