Local teen with cystic fibrosis gets life-saving double-lung transplant

Denise Dador Image
Friday, December 11, 2015
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Shelby Klug, 17, suffers from cystic fibrosis and recently received a life-saving double-lung transplant.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- This holiday season will have a special meaning for 17-year-old Shelby Klug.

The local teenager was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, which is a life-threatening condition that damages the lungs and digestive system. Her health took a turn for the worse two months ago, and doctors said there was very little hope for her if she could not get a lung transplant, but two weeks ago her luck changed.

After spending 84 days in the hospital, Shelby was able to go home for her 18th birthday celebration.

At age 2, Shelby received her diagnosis. Her health was stable until September, when a lung infection nearly killed her.

"We agonized as a team about whether she was even transplantable. She was so severely ill," said Dr. David Ross, medical director of the UCLA lung transplant program.

Her parents kept a vigil by her bedside. But in October, lungs became available and Shelby underwent a transplant.

"We were fortunate enough to have a donor give us a gift," her father Todd said.

Before the transplant, Shelby often gasped for air as she could only take about 38 breaths per minute. She would have to wake up at 3:30 each morning to take her nebulizing treatment just to be ready for school. Now, thanks to the double-lung transplant, it has all changed for her.

"It feels weird to think this is normal and that this is what I haven't been able to feel in 17 years," Shelby said.

Cystic fibrosis will no longer affect Shelby's lungs, but she will still be at risk for infection and rejection. But now she will be able to do something we all take for granted - breathing.

"I now have a brand new life that I can live without having to deal with everything, and it's a life I'm not going to live just for myself but for them as well," she said.