Triple transplant recipient Cody Sheehan takes a superhero approach to life
Just like his childhood superheroes, Cody Sheehan doesn’t like to be defeated.
“I’m a CF Avenger. Superheroes… they’re normal people with slight mutations and what is Cystic Fibrosis? A mutation in DNA. If these people can be super, then why can’t we be super?"
“Their mutation gives them an extraordinary ability. We’re essentially the same,” Cody who’s favourite Marvel Avenger is the superhero Captain America, said.
As a child Cody was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disease that affects the functioning of the respiratory and digestive systems. It required daily medication and intensive physiotherapy to survive.
While there’s been advances in treatment, there is no known cure. The average life expectancy for a person living with CF is 37. Cystic Fibrosis Australia aims to extend life expectancy to 50 by 2025.
As a teenager, Cody feared he wouldn’t live to see his 30th birthday.
“I jumped on a computer and typed in Cystic Fibrosis and all the websites that talk about what CF is, and the prognosis, were all really, really harsh. Cold, hard facts. I thought ‘Could this really be me in the next 15 to 20 years? Could I not see my 30th birthday?’ That really scared me.
“It was a kind of a turning point for me. I thought ‘Life is far too important to allow something life CF to beat me. I’m really going to show CF I’m not playing around’ and I just fought it from there,” he said.
He organised his own medication, enzyme tablets taken daily to help digest food; made sure he didn’t miss a physiotherapy treatment, required to clear mucus from his airways; regularly exercised and maintained a positive mindset.
But after a series of medical setbacks, in 2017, with his lungs and liver function deteriorating, Cody became the fourth person in NSW to have a double lung and liver transplant. A team of surgeons from RPA and Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospitals carried out the successful marathon operation.
“The last thing I remember is being wheeled into the operating theatre. The next thing I recall is I’m waking up… and it wasn’t hard to breathe.
“After the first week… I started to notice enormous changes, very quickly. I didn’t need to cough. Walking around was pretty good and my appetite had shot through the roof.
Cody recovered well from surgery, undergoing an intensive rehabilitation program.
“You realise how much the human body relies on function organs to operate. Two healthy lungs and a liver… it can be almost instant the level of change that you can experience,” he said.
There are more 1400 people on the waiting list for a transplant in Australia.
Having reached a milestone birthday, Cody’s advocating for others to register as an organ and tissue donor on the Australian Organ Donor Register.
“I just had my 30th birthday.
“For me, receiving the transplants, it’s not just receiving a second chance at life. The absolute greatest human gift that someone can give to someone else, is the gift that cannot be bought. It’s the gift of life. It really changes your perspective on life, your world around you and where you see yourself in it. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my donor. I think about that every day,” he said.
Watch a video of Cody’s story here