Cody Sheets Battles Cystic Fibrosis

June 22, 2010

This article is from NewsOK.com, powered by The Oklahoman.

 

In elementary school, when all the other children bolted outside for recess, Cody Sheets dutifully reported to the nurse's station. While his classmates were busy with playground games, he was receiving breathing treatment.

Sheets was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 2 years old. He's kept it at bay with medicine and treatment for most of his life, managing to attend school and work at a motorcycle shop after graduating from Mustang High School.

But in April 2009, his health took a turn for the worse. Now 23, Sheets has spent the past year in and out of the hospital — often in the intensive care unit — and the stays sometimes last longer than a month. He needs a double-lung transplant to survive.

For Sheets and his mother, Terrie Morris, that means waiting patiently for a donor and fundraising for the estimated $650,000 cost of the procedure. It's difficult to predict just how long he will have to wait, but it could be anywhere from six months to two years, Morris said.

"It's a scary process,” she said. "There's nothing I want more than my kid to take a breath that doesn't hurt.”

Morris spoke from her son's hospital room in the intensive care unit at OU Medical Center. Sheets was unable to give an interview because he was hooked up to a machine that regulates his breathing and ensures he doesn't get too much carbon dioxide in his lungs.

Morris was hopeful that they would soon move to a regular hospital room, and she remains optimistic about Sheets' transplant prospects.

"We feel, pretty much from his statistics, that he's at the top of his list,” Morris said.

Sheets always has had a positive attitude about his condition, Morris said. He didn't get to have the sleepovers and parties that most children experience, but he tried to live a normal life as much as possible — even though no one would consider 30 to 40 pills and up to eight nebulizer treatments a day normal.

In high school, Sheets didn't even tell most of his friends he had cystic fibrosis for a long time. "Finally, he just went on his MySpace one day and told everything,” Morris said. "He didn't really want all the attention on him. He didn't want to be treated differently.”

Sheets' desire to live as much of a normal life as possible persists. He is a member of a car club, where his beloved Dodge SRT-4 has been dubbed "Black Beauty.” The club has been "a good support group for him,” Morris said. One day at the hospital, 25 club members showed up to visit at one time.

He also has a passion for tattoos, although doctors have told him to put that on hold for the time being, at least until the transplant and probably for a while afterward, too.

"Some people look at art on a wall; he looks at art on (his) body,” Morris said. Pretty much everything Sheets does now is colored by the prospect of a lung transplant — he has to stay within about 30 minutes of the hospital at all times. Venturing outside that radius, such as when Sheets is craving Eischen's fried chicken in Okarche, requires his doctor's permission.

Morris spends her time organizing as many fundraising events as she can. Even after the cost of the transplant, the necessary anti-rejection medicine could cost up to $5,000 a month.

Upcoming fundraising events include a garage sale in Yukon this weekend and a "Day for Cody” in Mustang in August that will feature a car show, motorcycle run and golf tournament.

Having a child with cystic fibrosis hasn't been easy for Morris, but she's quick to credit her faith for helping her wade through the challenges.

"I believe that God has just provided this unknown strength,” she said. "I don't leave the hospital afraid that I won't see him again. We don't panic — we just can't at this point.”

To learn more about Cody, visit NewsOK.com or read his bio on the NFT website.