Tuesday, November 10, 2009

78 Years Old with CF!!!

I received this e-mail from the Special Event Manager at our CFF Branch. It really is worth the time to read!!

This morning I received a phone call from a Mr. Hal Soloff. Mr. Soloff has cystic fibrosis and is 78 years old. YES, you read correctly, 78 years old! After talking to Mr. Soloff for quite sometime, I was determined to share his story with each of you! Mr. Soloff is originally from Chattanooga, TN and graduated from the University of Tennessee Law in 1957. He currently lives in Connecticut but has many ties to the East Tennessee area.

I have attached an article written by Mr. Soloff just 6 years ago. I think each of you will find him as interesting as I did. What an amazing CF story to share with all! If you would like to contact Mr. Soloff he can be reached at halsoloff@snet.net. He assured me, he loves answering questions and getting emails."

Here is the article...

Hal, 72 Years Old with CF
By Hal Soloff

Methuselah supposedly lived for 969 years. Yet, if someone survives Cystic Fibrosis for 72 years, it’s considered an accomplishment. I could speculate that my mother’s insistence that I wash my hands frequently, not put coins in my mouth, and take my cod liver oil everyday played an important part in my longevity. At any rate, I have overcome many obstacles in a full lifetime.

An accurate medical diagnosis of my cystic fibrosis came late in life. In 1935, at age four, my parents took me to a child psychiatrist in Providence, RI, as our family doctor couldn’t explain why I was having bowel and breathing problems. The psychiatrist suggested that it might be psychosomatic. That planted the seed in my parents’ minds that my physical problems were really mental, thus my own fault.

At age eight, I was hospitalized due to dehydration, breathing difficulties, and digestive problems. The doctors put me on IVs for over a month, but the hospital psychologist told my parents my illness was due to jealousy of my baby sister! It would be another twenty years before my CF would be correctly diagnosed.

Despite physical challenges, I have always strived to excel academically and in extracurricular activities. Although I went to the doctor’s office four times a week after school to sit on an inhalation machine for an hour, I maintained good grades in school, played in the school band and orchestra, and served as the editor of the school newspaper.

At age ten, my parents bought me my first drum, as they got tired of my banging on radiators and ash trays. Six years later, I was a professional musician playing in a dance band and the timpanist in the local symphony orchestra. At the end of high school, I had decisions to make. Seeing the consequences of the Great Depression and World War II, it became my desire to go beyond the ordinary aspects of day to day living. I wanted to be a participant, not just an observer.

When several of my closest friends who had joined the Army and Marine reserves were sent to Korea during the war there, I went to the Air Force recruiting office. Without giving me a physical, they took me. My parents were shocked! My weight was less than the minimum 120 pounds, but the recruiting sergeant put his foot on the scale. I served two years before the oxygen system on our plane broke down during a flight, and we were sent to an Air Force hospital. After one look into my swollen and bleeding sinuses, the Air Force gave me an honorable discharge due to physical disability.

I returned to college, and in my senior year at law school, met my future wife. We have been married for almost 47 years and have two adopted children. During the early years of our marriage, I was an attorney and stockbroker with a New York Stock Exchange firm.

The diagnosis of CF was made in April 1959 at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, by the late Harry Shwachman, M.D., who was the dean of CF doctors. I was 28, and had been married for 3 years. After giving me a couple of sweat tests and reading my extensive medical records which included a history of digestive involvement, many sinus surgeries to remove polyps, two Caldwell Luc surgeries, hospitalizations on IVs, and X-rays with unexplained shadows, Harry, who became a friend as well as my CF doctor for many years, told me I had Cystic Fibrosis. I recoiled in fear expecting to break out in cysts all over my body, and that my few muscles would become fibrous. He went on to explain the disease, and my thoughts were, having survived acne, maybe cysts would be better than CF?

Two weeks later, my married younger sister was also diagnosed with CF. She died in September of that year a few weeks after giving premature birth to a girl, who now is married and has two daughters of her own. There is no physical pain equal to losing a child or sibling.

After being diagnosed with CF, the doctors’ prognosis then was I had about two years left. But I went on to earn two masters and a doctorate in jurisprudence. My 27 years of teaching at a private secondary school and on the college undergrad and graduate levels were most rewarding.

I have been the subject of two DNA studies. We can ponder why some survive and others do not, and there are no simple answers. However, a positive, determined attitude to survive, love from family and friends, and of course, excellent medical care have been the answers in my case.

My wife and I love to travel, and we are Associates of the University of London, a title granted when we each completed our lectures and theses. While lecturing at colleges and civic organizations there, we got to know the British national health care system quite well and had excellent doctors. We’ve hiked in the Cairngorms of Scotland, along the coast of Cornwall, Snowdonia in Wales, along the Hardangerfjorden of Norway, the Alps of Switzerland, the Rockies of Montana and Alberta, Canada, along a glacier in Alaska, and up an extinct volcano in Hawaii. Our next trip, hopefully, will be to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, where I understand there is an opening larger than my mouth. Finally, my wife will find out if it’s true!


Kellee said...

How amazing!!
Thanks for sharing.. It makes me smile to hear of such wonderful things!

Councilof1 said...

Awesome story!

Cara said...

This made me cry! Such an inspiration!

I googled his name and found that his wife of 53 years passed away in August. I can't imagine...

Lucy's mom said...

This incredible man's story made me bawl like a baby! :P I can't wait to pass it on to others for inspiration and personally email this wonderfully detirmined man to let him know what an inspiration he really is in this community! Thanks for posting this! It really made my day, week...year! :)

Tiffany said...

Glad to see you posted this! I completely agree, what an amazing story!

Anonymous said...

I came across this web page, and want to thank those who posted replies. My wife was the real hero in our family. There is not enough room to post all the amazing things she did, but I will mention, that when she heard her pancreatic cancer had metastasized two years after she had a Whipple surgery, she decided to forego chemo again, and got her bucket list together. We went to Hawaii and spent two weeks with out daughter and her husband in February. In March/April, we went to London, and celebrated her 75th birthday at our favorite restaurant, Rules, with friends. My cousins gave her a family birthday party in Northampton. Then we went out to Greenwich where we had lived, and all our neighbors got together and gave her another birthday dinner. To top it all off, my wife's former tutor from the U. of London and his wife came into London, and brought her a chocolate birthday cake. She returned home to her gardens, and died August 9th. She bravely said, "Seventy five years old is not a premature death!" I can't tell you how I miss her, and if all goes well, on April 9th, I'll be 79. I no longer have her marvelous care, and it's not an easy task to take care of my CF by myself, but she gave me an enriched and wonderful life. My only regret, is that she went first. I used to tease her, that she would have to clean out the closets. I wish all of you the love I had! Hal