A normal day for West Ranch boys volleyball junior setter Johnny Buchanan consists of waking up and doing a 5-minute Albuterol breathing treatment before he heads off to school. After school, he comes home to eat a quick meal and another breathing treatment with Albuterol and saline to help thin out the mucus in his lungs before practice.
Buchanan then comes home to eat dinner, do homework and then another breathing treatment before he calls it quits for the day.
“I have gotten into a pretty good routine this semester with practice and school,” Buchanan said. “It’s pretty normal to me now.”
The West Ranch junior is living and thriving with cystic fibrosis.
Cystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps germs, like bacteria, leading to infections, inflammation, respiratory failure and other complications.
Around the age of 1, Buchanan started to get congested with a lot of mucus and contracted bronchitis, prompting his parents to take him to the hospital.
“That’s when they decided to test for it, because neither of my older siblings had it, and my parents didn’t know they were both carriers of it until I tested positive for it,” Buchanan said.
Finding out at an early age, Buchanan and his family has been able to treat and continue to be active in sports through hard work, dedication and support.
“Sometimes, I don’t think about it because I’m used to it, but it has impacted me in sports growing up,” Buchanan recalls. “My whole family has been really supportive of it, and all my friends are also supportive, but I’m just used to it in a way because I don’t know what it’s like to live without it.”
Before every meal, he also has to take digestive enzymes to help him digest fat or protein in a meal and recalls at a young age, not being able to swallow pills.
“Doing that when I was a little was hard. I would always open up the pill and put it in apple sauce because I couldn’t swallow pills, so I was eating apple sauce five times a day. Once I swallowed a pill for first time, I’ve never eaten apple sauce since.”
Dedicating himself to his craft, volleyball, Buchanan has used the disease and the treatments as motivation for what is yet to come in his volleyball career.
“Just kind of being disciplined with that has always been hard, but I’m very competitive so I kind of use it as a workout so I can still play,” Buchanan said.
Getting older and understanding more about CF, Buchanan has become more comfortable talking about his condition with friends and teammates.
Earlier this year, Buchanan had a scare almost having to go to the hospital, which would have made him miss two weeks of the Wildcats’ preseason and found nothing but support and admiration from his teammates.
“I was keeping them updated and they were all supportive of it because they all want me there to play and help lead the team,” Buchanan said. “A couple of my best friends will remind or ask if I did my treatment today or even coach (Brandon Johnson) will tell me to stay on them.”
Currently 5-0 in Foothill League play and in the midst of a 35-plus game Foothill League win streak, Buchanan holds the reins to the West Ranch boys volleyball team after taking over for Foothill League Player of the Year Tyson Drake, who graduated last spring.
“That would put us at 50-0 streak in league if we get it through my senior year, which we definitely have the talent and potential to do; so that’s probably the biggest goal. Personally, I would love to beat Tyson’s assist record, and things like that.”
Drake finished his senior campaign with 723 assists in 83 games played, averaging 8.7 assists per game. Buchanan currently has 458 assists through 56 games played averaging 8.2 assists per game, according to MaxPreps.com
Of course, Buchanan still gets winded from time-to-time, but has learned to adapt to the and figure out ways to play through the issues.
“Sometimes in volleyball, if someone’s shoes are untied or something, the ref has to stop it for a minute,” Buchanan said. “Literally a couple times, I’ve told my teammate to untie their shoe, just so I can take a breather. So I’ll do that once in a while if I need it, so we don’t waste a timeout just to take a quick breather.”
Living with CF, Buchanan hasn’t let the disease hold him back or stand in the way of continuing to prosper in life and has sports and specifically volleyball to thank.
“It’s kind of that long-term battle so you can’t really slack off of it,” Buchanan said. “Sports help that because it gets your lungs working, functioning, moving and any activity doctors say that it helps with your treatments and stuff. Just trying to stay active has been a big part in why I’ve been able to stay so healthy throughout even the last 15 years playing sports.”