Four months after surgery in which lobes from his parents' lungs replaced his CF-damaged lungs, 12-year-old Christopher Ireland can shoot hoops, ride a skateboard and run up the stairs. And he's studying hard so that when he returns to his 7th grade classes this spring, he won't be behind.
A year ago, Christopher was very sick from CF, requiring oxygen tanks and frequent IV antibiotics. He was put on a lung transplant list. The family waited and waited.
But last summer, his condition deteriorated. His parents, Donna and Tom Ireland of Torrance, California, considered a new option: donating parts of their lungs to Christopher. Both parents would donate one lung lobe to their son. This procedure, called a "double lobar lung transplant with living related donors," had been performed 60 times since January 1993 and lung function has been as good as those of cadaver transplants.
It works like this. A lung has five lobes. Two healthy donors each give up one of their lobes to the person with CF. The CF lungs are removed, and the healthy lobes are put in their place. The person with CF will recover with non-CF lung lobes. The transplanted lobes require about a year to expand to fill the chest cavity. The donors will also have more space in their chest cavities; their lungs will expand to fill them. It takes about a year for full recovery.
After being warned of the risks, a concern since they also care for Christopher's brother and a sister, tissue cultures were taken. Both parents had good tissue matches with Christopher.
On Oct. 6, Mom, Dad, and Christopher were scheduled for surgery. Christopher was at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles. A team led by Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes, a renowned heart/lung transplant surgeon, performed the surgery. At another hospital also in Los Angeles, but 20 miles away, Christopher's parents' lung lobes were removed and rushed to Children's Hospital.
As Christopher recovered at Children's, his parents recuperated at the other hospital. Grandparents and CFRI members, Jack and Doris Kinsley, drove back and forth with videos and Polaroid camera shots to keep up morale. Members of the parents' church took care of the younger children while their parents were hospitalized.
Recovery takes time. Christopher spent five weeks in intensive care. He is being schooled at home for six months to protect his immune system. He drinks bottled water and shuns public swimming pools to avoid germs. Dad,Tom, a former runner, says he is not yet as energetic as he used to be.
Christopher still has other CF-related health challenges such as nasal polyps and the need to gain weight. But most importantly: Christopher is bouncing back.
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