In 1975 at the age of two, Phil Stevanovic, a construction manager who builds airports in the metropolitan area, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a degenerative genetic disease that affect the lungs and digestive systems. At the time, doctors told him he wouldn’t live past 18 years of age. With the assistance of medication and extensive chest physical therapy, Phil was able to beat the odds. Doctors prescribed lots of exercise as a way to clear the lungs of the thick sticky mucus that is the breeding ground for lung infections and the hallmark of Cystic Fibrosis.
Tennis was a natural fit. Phil started playing tennis at the age of 12. He played singles and doubles for his high school tennis team, and continued to play in leagues afterwards.
In 2004, Cystic Fibrosis caught up with him and his health began to decline. He was listed for a double lung transplant in 2006 as the last option to save his life. Phil finally underwent surgery nine months later.
Phil was one of 66 surgeries in New York State, which was performed at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, by a team of 15 healthcare professionals who assisted with this surgery. The recuperation period was only three months, instead of the normal six, due to the fact that he was in such good shape from playing tennis two to three times per week prior to his surgery. All of the tennis that he missed during this recuperation was replaced by watching tennis on television (visual training).
During his nine-month wait on the transplant list, Phil continued to play tennis with a 10-lb. oxygen tank strapped to his back. He’d like to thank his accommodating league partners who tolerated his poor play and allowed him many rest breaks.
Cystic Fibrosis requires a lot of work to maintain your health, fight off lung infections and digest food. A daily regimen of medications, chest physical therapy and exercise helps to slow the progression of the disease. Ultimately, the disease wins and often a double lung transplant is the last hope for survival. Phil is very grateful for receiving the greatest gift on earth, the gift of life, two lungs from an anonymous donor.
Phil's first question after surgery was “How long before I can get back on the court doc?” The doctor laughed, but was optimistic by Phil’s determination to continue a challenging road to successful recovery.
All of this was accomplished only with the assistance of a loving wife, Jennifer, and his children, Derek and Ryan who helped put a smile on his face everyday.