You watch a woman cross the street. She seems to be about 40 or so, and you realize she has a backpack that has a bottle of oxygen in it. This bottle has 3-6 hours of oxygen in it, and her time on this street and this earth is limited. What could cause a woman that is relatively so young to need to be on oxygen 24 hours? Would cigarettes do this? Not likely. Working in a coal mine, or working around fiberglass, as well as working around a lot of noxious fumes would put you in the hospital and cause breathing problems for the rest of your life. But would you be on 24 hour oxygen at 40 years old, and deciding whether a lung transplant was your best idea? No, it’s not very likely. There’s a silent killer among us. This killer is taking out people’s lungs and livers as if they were souvenirs. what is this killer? How did these poor people contract it?
The people who have this disease got it because they were born. This is a hereditary disease called Alpha One Antitripson Deficiency. Alpha one as it is called by the people who have it and the health care providers that deal with it, is a very real disease. There are two strains of the disease; one takes out the lungs, and the other takes out the liver. According to alphaone .org, “The strain that destroys the liver causes huge amounts of the “alpha one” protein to enter the liver leading to cirrhosis and liver failure. In fact 15% of all liver failures in the country are caused by Alpha one.” The liver can not wash out the protein like it is suppose to, and the protein then begins to cling to the liver and feeding on it. Soon the liver lacks the ability to function properly. The strain that takes out the lungs “attacks the little grape like structures called Alveoli. The Alveoli create the air we breathe; and they slowly start to decay. The more decay, the less an individual can breathe” says alphaone.org the main site on Alpha One. Little by little the lung’s ability to move air decreases more and more till they can no longer produce oxygen and the person dies. “It has been estimated that more than 75% of the sufferers of COPD suffer from Alpha One ” according to one study that was submitted to alphaone.org
There are many different types of Alpha One AntiTripson Deficiency. Per the University of Gaineslville research in the Alphaone.org journal of research, how bad the disease is “depends on what genes you were born with. If you were born with one type of “genome, you can die in 5 years of your 30th birthday. Another will allow you to live till 60, slowly loosing the ability to breathe bit by bit.” The more people who are aware of this disease, the more that will get tested. All that it takes is a finger prick, and you can find out if you are or aren’t a carrier or if in fact you do have it. The more people who know about this disease, the more money that can be raised to find a cure and stop the amount of people dying at such a young age. Currently, the only help for these people are lung transplants, drug and oxygen therapy to prolong life to their 60’s, or dialysis for the liver sufferers. This silent killer can be in you, and I know it’s in me. I’ve watched most of my family die of this disease, and I only hope i don’t have to watch anymore.