What’s In a Number?
Have you noticed? It seems that there is a number that everyone in CF-land seems to fixate on. It’s called the FEV1, which is basically the amount of air one can blow out forcefully in one second. This number is then compared to the amount someone of matched age and size who is CFTR-able can blow out in one second, to come up with the “percent predicted” FEV1.
I hate this number. It compares me to a group of people with “normal” lungs, and this isn’t fair. Perhaps this is the perfectionist in me speaking, but I don’t want to achieve a grade of less than an A+, and never have. Yet, no matter how hard I try or how much “extra-credit” I do, I can never beat those a##holes I am compared to. They don’t just barely slip by me in the last 5 meters, either. They cream me. As I continue to age, they are rapidly approaching lapping me.
So I’ve been thinking about how to approach this problem. It is unlikely that I can track down the names of the people who were tested to come up with the “norms,” but if I could, I would ask each of them to kindly remove one lung and THEN let’s see who can blow out more air in one second! But alas, there are probably some HIPAA rules against this, so instead I’ve come up with a better solution: I am going to give myself a handicap, just like they do in golf…only in reverse.
A golfer’s handicap enables golfers to compete with each other on a level playing field. For instance, imagine an awesome golfer who can make par on every hole; she has a zero handicap. If another player tends to bogey every hole, his handicap is 18. So if these two theoretical players compete against each other with a friendly bet of, let’s say, a beer on the 19th hole, the two raw scores are not what is used. Nope…the 18 handicap dude gets to subtract 18 from his score before comparing his to his much more skilled partner, who has to use her raw score. If he makes all bogeys, and she makes par on every single hole but one (hit that stupid tree on number 8), she’s buying the beer. Get it?
So, in the context of FEV1, I have decided that for each year I live past 37, the “median” life expectancy of CF (another number I hate), I get to add 100 ml to my FEV1 volume. I pretty much just pulled this number out of nowhere, but it seems reasonable. So, if I am adding right, my last blow was a 143% predicted. BOOM!