Man uses precious breaths to share story on Rare Disease Day

Ottawa County

**March 16, 2020, Editor’s Note: Since this report originally aired, Puebla has received new lungs through transplant surgery. He no longer has to use oxygen and is recovering well.

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Puebla, 66, coughs all day and all night. Tubes attached to his nose run across his living room to a large tank of oxygen in a separate room, helping him breathe.

If he didn’t have them on, you may not know he is sick, which he has been for the last nine years. You also wouldn’t know he has already lived six years longer than doctors told him he would as he waits to get onto the lung transplant list.

Puebla has IPF, or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition where the tissue deep in the lungs becomes scarred over time.  When he was diagnosed on his birthday in 2011, doctors told him there was no cure and, at the time, there was also no treatment.

“The numbers meant something at the time. It’s shocking, but now, it’s just numbers,” Puebla explained.

Three years after learning about his disease, a treatment became available to help slow down its progression. It may have helped keep him alive, but there is something else you must know about him to better understand his longevity — Puebla is stubborn.  

Despite the tubes that he refers to as a “leash,” he still insists on going to the store so that his grandchildren have pizza when they get to his house in Zeeland after school. He has 20 grandchildren and counting and doesn’t want to miss a thing. He shares his story now to raise awareness for a disease, even he and his wife had not heard of at the time of his diagnoses. 

Puebla hopes to be on the transplant list at the beginning of March and says he would put his new lungs to good use.

“If I get (the transplant), I would like to continue doing what I’m doing now, encouraging others to be stubborn, and keep fighting,” he explained.

He also says he is grateful to his wife and children for continuing to support him, helping him keep a positive attitude about his disease while he prays for a cure. 

Puebla has previously traveled with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation to speak at events across the country, and typically spends the winters in Florida with his wife but has been unable to travel recently due to a decline in health because of his disease.

He is waiting for news about getting onto the lung transplant list. Even after he is on it, there is no telling how long it could be before he gets a phone call that there is a matching donor.


Online:

IPF Foundation

Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation

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