Transplant turns dreams to reality for local teen

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 6, 2011

By David Vitrano


MT. AIRY – Until recently, doing the things other children his age enjoy seemed like a distant dream to 15-year-old Chase Curry.

Chase suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and other parts of the body. The disease can be quite serious and lead to early death.

Earlier this year, Chase and his mother Heather Curry found themselves facing such a prospect.

“In March of this year he was in complete heart failure,” said Heather.

Also, his lungs were functioning at only about 46 percent capacity, and his weight had dipped to 77 pounds. Heather was told Chase would live only another year or two if nothing was done.

It was at this point doctors suggested Chase be tested for the possibility of a double lung transplant.

At first, Chase was resistant. Weary of doctor visits and a little frightened of the procedure, Chase told his mother that if he had to die he wanted to do it with his original body in tact.

A meeting with a fellow CF sufferer about the same age changed his mind, however. She put him at ease and showed him he really had nothing to lose by going for the transplant.

With his mind changed and a round of tests later, Chase was on the transplant list, where he waited for only 10 days before a match was found. According to Heather, the wait time is usually 30 to 90 days.

So, on June 25 Chase was admitted to the hospital. He underwent all the necessary pre-operation procedures, but got another case of cold feet just before entering the operating room. Chase said one thing strengthened his resolve.

“They started talking about Applebees, McDonald’s, Outback,” he said. “I was good to go.”

During and after the operation, Chase’s lucky streak continued.

First, his new lungs were a perfect fit. According to his mother, usually donated lungs must be trimmed down to fit the available space, but these fit perfectly.

Secondly, Chase recovered from his transplant in record time.

In fact, Chase set two records at Ochsner Hospital — he was the youngest boy ever to receive such a transplant there and he had the quickest recovery time of any transplant patient.

“I always have been a quick recoverer,” he said.

Six days after receiving his new set of lungs, Chase was on his way back to his Mt. Airy home.

Since then, his prognosis has only gotten better. Now weighing around 100 pounds, a much more robust Chase can now walk down the street to visit friends and relatives whereas before the operation walking next door was a major chore. Also, his lung capacity is up to 97 percent.

“He has perfect vital signs when we go to clinic,” said Heather.

In fact, after a recent visit to the doctor, Chase was told he could reduce his clinic visits from once a week to once every two weeks.

From his physical ability to his mental outlook, Chase has been completely transformed.

“There is so much more he can do now,” said Heather. “He can enjoy himself lke a child should.”

Chase said he is looking forward to riding a bicycle and, eventually, a dirt bike.

He is also looking forward to doing something most children his age take for granted — returning to school. Chase has been homeschooled for the past several years but hopes to return to regular schooling for the 2012-13 school year, when he will be a high school junior.

Said his mother, “I’d like to see him walk with his class.”

All this is still very new to Chase, who is daily testing the limits of what he is now able to do.

“I’ve got to find that out,” he said.

There will be a benefit to help defray Chase’s medical costs Aug. 12 at Bailey’s Andouille. Starting at 10 a.m., the shop will be selling lunches of fried fish, macaroni and cheese, bread and dessert for $7. Call 985-652-9090 to place an order. Delivery is available for orders of five or more lunches.