Jennifer Ovechka

Jennifer Ovechka giving a speech

From breathlessness to running miles, Jennifer Ovechka’s cystic fibrosis journey shines a light on #ChronicDiseaseDay

At just 4 feet 11 inches tall, Jennifer Ovechka’s triumph over her chronic condition–cystic fibrosis–is reminiscent of the story of David and Goliath. Before her double-lung transplant, Jen felt winded going up a staircase. Now, she runs two miles a day, works as a certified medical assistant, and enjoys newlywed life. 

July 10th, #ChronicDiseaseDay, reminds us of the day-to-day, relentless effects of chronic conditions. For Jen, this included daily breathing treatments, 30 to 40 pills a day, four insulin shots a day due to Cystic Fibrosis-related diabetes, and IV antibiotics at least once a year. Along with her sister, Jen was diagnosed at birth with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease affecting more than 30,000 Americans. Tragically, she lost her sister to the disease, but Jen always tried to maintain a healthy and productive life, despite feeling lousy quite often. In her late 30s, she said this was her reality every day, forcing her to leave her full-time job. At the time, her lung function hovered around 41 percent.

Just before turning 40, Jen’s health took a frightening turn, her lung function dropping to 21 percent overnight and prompting her to move to the lung transplant list. After being on the transplant list for six months and a two-week hospital stay, Jen received a double-lung transplant, marking the start of her new life with a healthy pair of lungs.

Troy, her fiance, and her family served as her pillars of strength. Jen recovered at Gift of Life Howie’s House for six weeks after her transplant and said that “it was just a homey, tight-knit environment” and that “the House was crucial during my recovery. Every meal at the end of the day was appreciated, and every tidy bed to rest my head was valued.”

Since leaving Howie’s House, Jen hasn’t stopped moving. “I was able to run a 5-mile race, work full-time as a medical assistant, buy a home, and above all marry Troy, my sweet big guy who never left my side.”