Liz Breakfield

Liz Breakfield

Lung Transplant

Teenage rebellion leaves its mark on Liz, but determination gives her a new breath.

Teenage rebellion is certainly nothing new, and parents know all too well it can stomp through a family’s life in all kinds of ways. Liz Breakfield and her mom, Theresa Owens, started butting heads soon after Theresa’s marriage to Liz’s step-dad Anthony. The marriage meant a move to Portage, Ind., from South Carolina when Liz was 14.

“It was tough,” remembers Liz. “I didn’t make real friends until about my sophomore year in high school.”

As Liz finally made friends, she began to push back more at home. And she started to rebel—by not using her medications.

Born with cystic fibrosis (CF), Liz took daily medications and breathing treatments that were necessary in keeping the disease in check. The hour-long breathing treatments were a part of life for Liz. She took medicine to help keep her airways clear and free of infection using a nebulizer, a machine that delivers medicine as a fine mist that’s inhaled. Eventually, she also wore the Vest, an inflatable device that’s attached to a machine that vibrates the vest at high frequency. The vibrations help loosen mucus in the chest. 

She says until her teen years, her childhood had been a good one, even living with CF.

“My doctor wanted me to be active,” says Liz. So she played soccer and softball, which helped keep the thick, sticky, lung-clogging mucus caused by the condition from building up.

“CF didn’t really negatively affect my life because I didn’t have restrictions on what I could do,” she says.

With the move to Indiana, Liz saw pulmonary specialists at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health for her annual checkups to monitor her condition. Up until then, Liz was vigilant about doing her breathing treatments and rarely had problems due to her CF.

Rebellion leaves its mark

However, as Liz began spending more time with her friends and butting heads with her mom, she began spending less time doing her treatments.

“I was going to the movies and spending the night with friends,” recalls Liz. “My mom would get on me about doing my treatments and I’d say ‘I’m fine’ and just walk out the door.”

Liz says by her senior year, she and her mom were fighting constantly. Eventually, Liz moved in with her boyfriend and his mother and only saw her mother sporadically.

“I felt like, ‘I can do this on my own; I don’t need you,’ says Liz.

She felt the same way about her breathing treatments, admitting she did them infrequently at best.

“I pretty much quit doing them, just doing a treatment only once in awhile.” she says.

After two years of that half-hearted approach, Liz found herself back home in Portage. Her lungs were irreversibly damaged and she was facing the prospect of a double lung transplant. Along the way, she and her boyfriend had parted ways and she’d lived in South Carolina with her grandparents while working and going to school.

Liz’s doctor at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health explained that before she could even get on the transplant list, she had work to do. Among the requirements, the process included extensive testing and three months of pulmonary rehabilitation to build her strength.  

Liz completed the tests at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, where she would also complete rehabilitation and have her transplant. She and her parents moved to Lafayette, Ind., so it was easier to get to rehabilitation three times a week. Liz finally understood how serious her situation was.

“There wasn’t a question for me about not doing what I was supposed to,” says Liz. “I had the mindset that this is how it was going to be from now on so I might as well get used to it.”

Rebellion leaves its mark

However, as Liz began spending more time with her friends and butting heads with her mom, she began spending less time doing her treatments.

“I was going to the movies and spending the night with friends,” recalls Liz. “My mom would get on me about doing my treatments and I’d say ‘I’m fine’ and just walk out the door.”

Liz says by her senior year, she and her mom were fighting constantly. Eventually, Liz moved in with her boyfriend and his mother and only saw her mother sporadically.

“I felt like, ‘I can do this on my own; I don’t need you,’ says Liz.

She felt the same way about her breathing treatments, admitting she did them infrequently at best.

“I pretty much quit doing them, just doing a treatment only once in awhile.” she says.

After two years of that half-hearted approach, Liz found herself back home in Portage. Her lungs were irreversibly damaged and she was facing the prospect of a double lung transplant. Along the way, she and her boyfriend had parted ways and she’d lived in South Carolina with her grandparents while working and going to school.

Liz’s doctor at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health explained that before she could even get on the transplant list, she had work to do. Among the requirements, the process included extensive testing and three months of pulmonary rehabilitation to build her strength.  

Liz completed the tests at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, where she would also complete rehabilitation and have her transplant. She and her parents moved to Lafayette, Ind., so it was easier to get to rehabilitation three times a week. Liz finally understood how serious her situation was.

“There wasn’t a question for me about not doing what I was supposed to,” says Liz. “I had the mindset that this is how it was going to be from now on so I might as well get used to it.”