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Melinda Fenton: How Her Life Changed
for the Better

Melinda Fenton, Alpha-1 Consumer

Melinda Fenton, who was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1), is doing great now; however, that was not always the case. Adjusting to living with Alpha-1 was definitely a challenge — at first.

Melinda was prompted to get tested for Alpha-1 by her father, who at the time had only recently been diagnosed with the disease himself. Getting her father properly diagnosed had been an extremely difficult process, and one that took quite a while. When her father first became ill, no one was quite sure what was wrong with him. He visited numerous doctors, from oncologists to liver specialists, in the quest to determine what was making him so ill. Finally, he was referred to a lung specialist where he tested positive for Alpha-1.

"I didn't know anything about Alpha-1, so at first I thought that since we now knew what was wrong with him, he would get better. But by the time he was diagnosed, his lungs were in really bad shape."

Melinda abided by her father's request and was tested for Alpha-1. Even though she tested positive, she was so concerned about her father's deteriorating health that she did not immediately start her own treatments.

"My dad passed away about a year after he was diagnosed with Alpha-1. At that point, I was depressed about losing my dad and my treatments were the furthest thing from my mind. But then I started having symptoms, and not wanting to go through what my dad did, I went to see the doctor."

That doctor's visit prompted a series of health changes. The most significant was kicking an unhealthy habit: smoking. A smoker for 18 years, Melinda's doctor informed her that she needed to quit — which she did quickly. She has now been completely smoke-free since April of 2005.

"My life has completely changed, but it's been for the better. For example, I don't think I would have ever quit smoking had I not been diagnosed with Alpha-1."

She made other changes as well, including an important one concerning her job.

My life has changed for the better"I really had a hard time getting to work. I was upset about losing my dad, had to stop smoking, was starting new medication — it was a lot and I just didn't have the energy in the beginning. I decided it would be less stressful for me if I took a break from working."

Things have improved greatly since her original diagnosis. She receives a weekly Aralast™ infusion from her nurse and does her best to remain as healthy as possible.

"I make sure I use my nebulizer and other medication when I need it, keep my hands clean and limit my contact with people who are sick — the basic stuff. If someone has the flu, for example, I won't be seeing them for about a week!"

In her spare time, Melinda enjoys going to church, reading and watching a good action movie. She also enjoys spending time with her family.

"Things are always busy around here!"

Excerpted from The Alpha-1 Advocate, Coram's magazine for Alpha-1 patients (Spring 2009 issue).

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