MINSTER — Yoga teacher and owner of Just Breathe Health and Wellness Studio, Kimberly Oen, has decided to use her passion for fulfilled and healthful living as a way to help her son, Cody Kiehl, during his battle with cystic fibrosis.
Oen, with the collaboration of several other yoga instructors, has created a “Yogathon” event to bring awareness and support to Kiehl’s next hurdle within his disorder: acquiring a new set of lungs.
The Yogathon will be held at Oen’s studio, located at 4249 state Route 66, in Minster, and will be an all-day event consisting of seven yoga-centered classes, each lasting from 45 minutes to just over an hour. The event will begin and end with a prayer circle for Kiehl. Twenty-minute Thai yoga massages and Reiki sessions will also be available in the studio’s therapy room throughout the day.
Tickets are $10 per class or $35 for the day. All proceeds will go toward bills and expenses associated with Kiehl’s fight against cystic fibrosis and journey toward a lung transplant.
Kiehl, a 20-year-old from New Bremen, was first diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 18 months old.
Cystic fibrosis is genetic, meaning those who have the disorder are born with it. Affecting mostly the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine, cystic fibrosis can make breathing extremely difficult. The disorder affects cells in the body that produce mucus, sweat and digestive fluids, which often makes these liquids thick and sticky, blocking tubes, ducts and passageways.
According to Oen, this condition has caused Kiehl to spend a lot of time, both in and out of the hospital, treating his symptoms. Each day, Kiehl takes oral enzymes to help digest his food, as well as antibiotics to keep infection at bay, and is on supplemental oxygen around the clock. He uses a BiPAP machine during the night to keep his lungs inflated.
Kiehl must also go through IV therapy for his chest, which Oen said puts him in the hospital for at least 14 days, but often up to four weeks, each time. This IV treatment is done about four to five times per year.
A main focus of treatment is to keep the mucus in Kiehl’s lungs from thickening and hardening too much, in an effort to make breathing as easy as possible and to keep an infection from occurring.
“When he was a baby, we used to have to do cupping, pounding on his chest on different lobes of his lungs,” Oen said.
“As he got older, we got a thing that did it for us; he grew into a vest, which he puts on, it fills with air and it actually shakes him. Now, he has what’s called an IPV (intrapulmonary percussive ventilator), which he puts in his mouth. He uses inhaled meds through it and then it just pulsates his lungs because the goal is to keep the mucus moving and flowing.”
Each IPV treatment lasts about 45 minutes, and this is done about three times per day. Kiehl does some physical therapy a couple times per week, but this proves increasingly difficult due to his lacking lung function.
Within the past year, Oen said Kiehl’s condition had gotten to the point where the treatment of symptoms was no longer sufficient. The disorder was overtaking his lungs.
“It was in the summer of 2017 where his lung function was consistently below 30 percent,” Oen said. “When it gets that low, that’s when (doctors) start looking at a lung transplant.”
Kiehl went through preliminary testing in order to be deemed qualified for transplant, and now the wait is on. However, being on the organ transplant list comes with its own unique obstacles.
“It’s kind of a fine balance,” Oen said. “The sicker he is, the higher he is on the list, but he still has to stay healthy enough to survive the transplant.”
Receiving a lung transplant, Oen said, would be monumental to her son and his quality of life.
“He will no longer have the disease in his lungs,” she said. “He will still have cystic fibrosis, but his lungs will not have it.”
Having lungs free of cystic fibrosis would mean Kiehl would be able to do things he’s now unable to. This includes nearly anything requiring the exertion of physical energy. Even the simplest of tasks can be exhausting for him.
“If we spend a day out shopping or something, he wears his oxygen and then usually the next day, he has to rest the entire day. It’s a day of recovery because it really just wears him out,” Oen said.
“It’s going to be a long recovery process,” she said. “He could be in the hospital anywhere from four to eight weeks, then he’ll be at the Ronald McDonald House for maybe just as long. He won’t be able to drive for six months; he’ll be on anti-rejection meds, but after that, (the doctors) said he should never cough. Now, cough is constant for him.”
Oen opened her studio in June 2014. She said yoga has been a calming outlet for her and that Kiehl’s battle with cystic fibrosis inspired her to delve further into the practice.
“It’s named after my son — Just Breathe,” she said. “We named the studio after him because people don’t understand the importance of the breath and being able to take nice full breaths.”
Oen said she and her family aim to remain positive about Kiehl’s ongoing struggle with cystic fibrosis, and encourage others to appreciate what they have when they have it.
“As bad as we feel Cody is at times, we feel blessed because there’s always someone else out there that has something that they struggle with,” she said. “Be blessed and be grateful for your health.”
To register for the Yogathon, call Just Breathe Health and Wellness Studio, at 419-501-2378, or visit the ‘Just Breathe Yogathon Benefit for #codysnewlungs’ event page on Facebook.
Donations can be sent to Kiehl’s GoFund Me page, at https://www.gofundme.com/codys-new-lungs, or mailed to him at P.O.Box 173, Minster, OH 45865.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825