Benefit set for teen who needs lung transplant

Tripp Oldham and his mom, Alana Richey, in their North Charleston home. Oldham, 19, has cystic fibrosis and needs a double lung transplant.

The dreams of most 19-year-old men include sports, cars, travel, college and an active social life.

For Tripp Oldham of North Charleston, those things hopefully will come later. Right now, Oldham is focused on just trying to breathe.

Oldham, who has cystic fibrosis, is hospitalized on a regular basis and needs a double-lung transplant.

The Life and Breath Gala, a fundraiser to benefit Oldham, is set for Saturday at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston. It will feature food, a silent auction (vacations, jewelry, art and sports gear) and music provided by a DJ.

"The worst thing is not being able to do the things that you used to," Oldham said of cystic fibrosis.

The disease affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States and 70,000 worldwide, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Those with the disease have a defective gene that causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections. The mucus also obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food, the foundation states.

Oldham, a Trident Technical College student who hopes someday for a career in architectural engineering graphics, said health issues have forced him to put education and employment on hold while he works "to get healthy."

Oldham's mother, Alana Richey, said the transplant will be very difficult to arrange, and insurance and other funding sources will cover only part of the procedure and associated hospitalization costs. She estimates about $250,000 will have to be raised.

Oldham's 21-year-old sister also has cystic fibrosis, Richey said. The disease affects different people in different ways, she added.

She said Oldham checks into the Medical University of South Carolina on a regular basis for treatments.

"Every 30 days, he goes to a second home at MUSC," Richey said. "It's a revolving door for him."

Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560.