Man with cystic fibrosis fights to recover from double lung transplant

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An Allen Park man battling cystic fibrosis his entire life, received a double lung transplant.
They lost one son to complications from cystic fibrosis - now their other son is in the hospital facing his own challenges because of the disease. But Brett Bowman is having his mom pass on a message tonight -  about the importance of organ donation.

"I teased him last night I want to be you when I grow up," said Kim Bowman. "He said, 'Mom ...' And I said, 'No, really, you teach people so much about courage and strength in the face of some of life's most challenging moments.'" 

The same could be said for Kim and Brian Bowman. They raised two smart, loving, active sons. 

If you didn't know Brett and Blake, you wouldn't realize they inherited cystic fibrosis. A genetic disease that mainly affects the lungs and digestive system, but their parents never let it define them.

"It was a check and balance with each of them, always making sure they have their enzymes, make sure they did their treatments, it was a great thing and it really built an unbreakable connection," said Kim.

Sadly, that connection was broken in 2015, Brett's younger brother Blake, who was a freshman at Allen Park High School, developed double pneumonia. He was unable to fight off complications and rare bacteria that quickly consumed his body.

"It is so surreal to think both of the boys - the scenarios - the battles - they have had to face, on things that are just, unheard of," said Kim.

Kim says Brett, who also played football for the Jags at Allen Park High School, continued living a normal life until last year. The 23-year-old's lungs began to fail - he was on oxygen in desperate need of a lung transplant. In August, miraculously he found a match and underwent the successful surgery.

"I will never forget the 2nd birthday, August 9th," she said. "And then 48 hours later, he walked for the first time with his new lungs. He just did everything in leaps and bounds," said Kim.

But one week later was a challenge no one saw coming. Brett developed pain in his eyes. Multiple blood and tissue tests revealed pseudomonas - bacteria that was present in his old lungs, got into his blood stream during the transplant and traveled to his eyes, causing him to immediately go blind.

He is the only case in the U.S. and one of only six documented cases in the entire world.

"His right eye swelled up, it looked like he had a golf ball in his eye," Kim said. "The pressure and the pain was unbearable to watch him go through all of this, right after a transplant was unimaginable."

Brett, who has been in the University of Michigan Hospital for months, just had to have his right eye removed and will likely lose his left.

Despite all of this, a celebration in honor of Brett's transplant will go on.

A fundraiser is set for Friday at the Allen Park High School football game where both Bowman boys played. It is to help raise money to cover expenses - insurance does not - and to bring awareness to the importance of organ donation.

"We are eternally grateful because none of this would be possible without the kind of generosity of one amazing human being who was kind enough to give my son the ultimate gift of life."

To make a donation, go to the family's GoFundMe page or go to Friday's Allen Park High School football 'purple out' game at 7 p.m. The field is located on the east side of Allen Road at Champaign.