Double lung transplant recipient remembered for courageous battle


by WHAS editors

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 5:43 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 2 at 9:36 PM

(WHAS11) - Born with cystic fibrosis, Christena Gabehart Jones never drew a breath she didn't appreciate.

WHAS11's Melissa Swan first met Christena nine years ago after her first double-lung transplant in St. Louis.

"I guess I never breathed before,” she said.

In the warmth of a September day, she was happy, healing and walking into a new world fearless and wise.

"I had decided that transplant there was at least an unknown. Whether it was that I got the transplant, it worked, and i had 10 years, or I got the transplant and it didn't work and there was a month. That was the unknown, but with what i had there was a known: that it wasn't long and what was left wasn't enjoyable.”

With her new lungs, Christena could live life normally.

Beaming behind the wheel of her car with a newly acquired driver's license, graduating from high school and meeting the parents of the young organ donor who made those moments possible.

The best moment of all was when Christena married the love of her life, another double-lung transplant recipient, Kevin Jones.

Two years ago, Christena's tiny body began to reject her transplanted lungs. She was near death, and her family was faced with a gut-wrenching question.

"I said, when do we say it's enough, and he said when she's done. I love her enough to be done,” her mother said. 

But Christena forged on. She received another life saving call, a second double-lung transplant.
 More time to cherish family, husband and fur babies.

"I have always been the type of person who truly tried to seize the moment and the opportunities I was given and maybe live on a faster life than some people would have chosen.  I'm happy with everything I've done in life,” she said.

In her final days, while fighting another lung rejection, Christena was there for her brother George who also has cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant himself.

Christena passed away the same week as the poet Maya Angelou, whose words she lived by.

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take your breath away."