By JUDY WELLS

Feature writer

Practically everyone in Paulding County knows Dave Foltz. He’s been a captain on the Paulding Fire Department and coordinator of Paulding EMS for the past 23 years and an all-around good guy his entire adult life. “Foltzy” owns his own landscaping business and has a part-time job transporting vehicles for a local dealership. Any time his family, friends or neighbors need a helping hand, Dave is the first to show up.

But now Dave needs the help and support of those friends and neighbors in the most important battle of his life. Dave has CF, or cystic fibrosis, an inherited disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs, digestive system and other organs in the body. His lung function has decreased from about 45 percent a few years ago to 26-28 percent now. He takes medications, breathing treatments and requires frequent hospitalizations. He’s been in a number of clinical trials for patients with CF and has participated in several lung studies. But his doctors have told him a double-lung transplant is the next step in his treatment. Depending on when the surgery takes place and the condition of his heart at that time, he may also need a donor heart.

Dave is the middle son of Madeline and the late Don Foltz. His older brother, Don, and younger brother, B.J. do not have the condition. “Both parents have to be carriers of CF for a child to be born with it,” Dave explains. “I was sickly all the time growing up. Doctors finally diagnosed my CF when I was about five or six years old. I missed most of the second grade because I was sick and in the hospital so often. Doctors told my parents I’d never live to see 16. I’m 49 now.”

According to the Mayo Clinic website, cystic fibrosis affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat and digestive juices. Normally these secreted fluids are thin and slippery, but in CF patients a defective gene causes the secretions to become sticky and thick. Instead of acting as a lubricant, the secretions plug up tubes, ducts and passageways, especially in the lungs and pancreas.

“Cystic fibrosis is sometimes called the hidden disability,” Dave says. “To people who don’t know me, I look like the picture of health. I’m not as skinny as most CF patients, I’m active in the community and I still work part time. What they don’t see is my medication and breathing treatment regimen. I take several very expensive drugs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. I have to take breathing treatments two or three times a day, depending on the weather and how I feel. But I’m very disciplined and know that if I don’t follow my routine it’s only going to hurt me in the long run. I’m also a diabetic, but a CF diabetic. It’s a little different but I’ve learned how to manage it.”

Dave’s body also harbors two infections all the time. He needs to be hospitalized two to three times a year for treatment of the CF and the infections, which are not contagious to others. Each hospital stay lasts from 14 to 21 days. “I’d have to stay longer, but they usually let me come home early because I can take care of my own IV antibiotics,” he says. “I have a port in my upper chest that I use for the medications. I just flush it about once a month to keep it clean when I’m not using it for medications. I also have a defibrillator implanted in case my heart needs a jolt. Having CF makes it harder for me to breathe, which makes my heart work harder. I now have cardiomyopathy, which causes the chambers to enlarge and makes it harder for my heart to pump blood to the other parts of my body.”

Dave has begun a series of tests and examinations at the Cleveland Clinic to prepare him for his upcoming surgery. He has two more visits to the clinic before he can officially be placed on the transplant list. At that time, he will just need to be patient and wait until the necessary organs become available. Following his surgery, Dave and his girlfriend, Tammy Klein, will have to relocate to Cleveland for at least three months to be near the clinic. “I’ll have to have someone with me 24 hours a day,” he says. “We’ll probably live in a part of the hospital they’ve turned into small apartments for transplant patients. But during that time, we’ll both be losing our income. And not everything related to the surgery is covered under my insurance, which is Medicare and Medicaid. We’ll have lots of expenses that we’ll need to pay for ourselves.”

In addition to Tammy, Dave will also need a care team to help him during his recuperation. “My daughters, Andrea Pease and Allison Singer, will be helping me, along with my brother, Don,” he says. “My niece, Victoria Kennedy will help, too, and my oldest daughter, Chelsy, will be on my team when she gets back from Japan where her husband is stationed.”

In order to raise money to assist Dave with his medical expenses, several fundraisers have already been held in the county. “We’ve had a couple bowling tournaments and a spaghetti dinner at the fire house,” he says. “They both turned out great. There was a steady line of people at the dinner all evening. I was overwhelmed at the support the community showed for me.”

The Children’s Organ Transplant Association, or COTA, helps children and young adults who need a life-saving transplant by providing fund-raising assistance and family support. COTA is the nation’s only fundraising organization solely dedicated to raising life-saving dollars in honor of transplant-needy children and young adults. One hundred percent of each contribution made to COTA in honor of a patient helps meet that patient’s transplant-related expenses. COTA’s services are free to families and gifts to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

Dave has chosen COTA as the organization to manage funds that are raised for his transplant. “If they take care of the money, I don’t have to worry about filing taxes on it,” he says. “COTA is one of three organizations I considered, but they’re the only one that doesn’t charge a fee. And since CF is considered a childhood disease and I’ve had it my entire life, I qualify for their assistance. They recommended I raise at least $50,000 before the transplant, to cover my expenses after the surgery and all the little incidentals that will come up afterwards. We’re a little more than halfway to that goal. I’m so grateful to live in this community. The support from the fire and EMS departments, the businesses for their donations and the whole community has been overwhelming. I can’t thank everyone enough for their love and support.”

To help Dave get closer to his $50,000 goal, a fundraiser will be held Jan. 25 from 5-9 p.m. at the Paulding Eagles. There will be a live auction, 50/50 drawing, raffles, a bake sale, food, drinks, a live DJ and fun for everyone. Grand prize for the evening will be a drawing for a week’s stay in Punta Cana. If you would like more information on the fundraiser or to make a donation, contact Matt Hodge at 419-769-4555.