THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

The only thing Curtis Almeter, 27, wanted for Christmas was a new pair of lungs. As a patient suffering with cystic fibrosis (CF), he was waiting months to receive a transplant. This past Christmas he got his wish — a double lung transplant performed by Bryan Meyers, MD. Almeter is an avid photographer and tells his own transplant story through the lens.

Waiting for his lungs:

I’ve been on medicines basically since I was born. As the disease progresses, your strength and endurance seems to fall off. Until I got lungs, I didn’t really know what it was like to feel good. I was just trying my best to get by.

His care:

The nursing staff on the 13th floor, the unit dedicated to CF patients, is really great. When you are in and out of the hospital so much, you can’t help but make friends and build relationships with the staff. I was thankful to have some of the best surgeons in the country available to do the procedures.

Getting new lungs:

I received the call at 4:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve. After I arrived at the hospital, I had to wait because bad weather in Kansas City delayed the organ-retrieval team’s flight. I spent the time notifying friends and loved ones of the surgery, but then I was just sitting and waiting and thinking. I was thinking about the life-changing event that was about to take place. I remember thinking about that first deep breath I was going to be able to take and not need oxygen.

After surgery:

I woke up 14 hours after the surgery. I remember my first breath. I was still a little groggy and my chest and things were feeling tight. I was still on oxygen at the time just as a precaution, but it was nice to know I didn’t need it.

It’s all definitely worth it to be able to breathe. My pulmonary function tests are nearly four times better than before. To give you an idea of what it was like before, I required 6 liters of oxygen to walk at 2.2 mph on the treadmill for 30 minutes. Yesterday, I ran two miles in 28 minutes. It’s been quite an experience and I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas gift.

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