20-year-old awaits lung transplants

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Brandon Dennis, 20, Chanute, will move to St. Louis Friday with his mother, where he’ll wait for a double lung transplant. Dennis suffers from cystic fibrosis.

CHANUTE — Brandon Dennis’ next lease on life could come within a couple of days. Or he may have to wait up to two years — or longer.
Either way, the 20-year-old’s story enters its next chapter Friday when Dennis moves to St. Louis with his mother, Colleen, for what he hopes will be a double lung transplant.
Dennis was diagnosed as an infant with cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and ravages his digestive system.
As is the case with other CF sufferers, Dennis’ condition has steadily deteriorated to the point that he’s tied to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day. He takes nearly 50 pills daily and antibiotics intravenously in three-week intervals to ward off infection.
The disease also affects his pancreas, to the point that Dennis must receive daily insulin shots for diabetes.
“Even with all of this medical intervention to try to keep me healthy, I’m still unable to breathe easily,” Dennis told the Register in an e-mail. “My lungs are quickly failing me. I cough constantly, and am exhausted all of the time just from trying to breathe.”
He’s been hospitalized more than 20 times over the past two years.
“Now my doctors say the only hope to sustain my life is a double lung transplant,” he said.
That leads him to St. Louis, site of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, the nearest medical center that performs lung transplants.
Barnes-Jewish regulations mandate that all transplant recipients be within two hours of the hospital at all times, precipitating the move.
Dennis’ father, Loren, an employee at Utley’s Iola Auto Body in Iola, will remain at home with Brandon’s 9-year-old sister.
“Moving produces another hardship for my family and me,” he said. “My dad is the sole breadwinner in our household since my mom had to quit her job to go with me to St. Louis and take care of me full time. ... During our stay in St. Louis, my dad will be struggling to support both households on his own.”

DENNIS was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 6 weeks old. His birth mother soon realized she couldn’t handle the challenges of having an ailing son and gave him up for adoption to the Dennises.
The Dennis family initially lived in Chanute before moving to Cherryvale while Brandon was in elementary school. They moved to Yates Center briefly before returning five years ago to Chanute.
While in St. Louis, he’ll report to Barnes-Jewish for daily rehabilitation sessions until the transplant. He can expect a three-month hospital stay after the transplant.
Hospital officials told him his wait for two healthy lungs could last up to two years.
While the family has coverage from the state that will help alleviate hospital bills, friends and family are urging residents to help with other expenses.
Tax-deductible donations can be made to Chanute Community Foundation, Memo: New Lungs 4 Life, 1111 W. Main St., Chanute, KS 66720.
Correspondence can be sent to Dennis at Brandon@newlungs4life.com.