Double lung transplant recipient returning to Kentucky soon


by Melissa Swan

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 5:57 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 19 at 6:01 PM

(WHAS11) -- On our recent visit to St. Louis, Christena, her husband Kevin and her brother George were outside on a frosty day walking the dogs.  There is a puppy for each person.

Christena Gabehart Jones is still recuperating after her second double lung transplant at Barnes Jewish hospital in St. Louis.  "I can pretty much do anything I want at this point so I'm pleased," Christena said.

Christena is pleased with her steady progress through rehab, through lung tests and physical therapy since her transplant November 5.

In September, Christena's lungs were failing.  She was thin and frail in the ICU at Norton Hospital.  In St. Louis she got worse.

"My lungs collapsed and we got an ambulance and we got to the hospital in enough time," Christena said.

She doesn't remember much about her two and half months waiting for new lungs. Her family says that's good.

"This wait while it wasn't a long wait it was gut wrenching,"  Debra Gabehart, Christena's Mom said. "She was being maintained by a machine," her father George added.

"They tried to take her off the ventilator and she literally sat there and could not take a breath.  We didn't know if the lungs were going to come in time,"    Debra said.

That's when Christena's mother and Kevin had the most serious of talks.

"I said when do we say it's enough and he said when she's done.  I love her enough to be done.  I said I agree.  I was not going to put her through more than she wanted to go through," Debra said.

Christena's first transplanted lungs survived seven years before rejection.   In that time she learned to drive, graduated from high school, took college courses and married a man who knows what she's going through. Fourteen years ago Kevin had a double lung and liver transplant.  This is a couple who knows how to value the time they're given.

Christena says she is absolutely aware of the statistics of transplant.  But she also says, "I try to also know no statistic defines me.  Obviously the goal is to be 14, 15, 20 years and there are people out there who are 20 plus years and doing wonderful."

 "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 and I hope they continue that way," Christena said.

Sitting with the couple you can tell the bond they have is strong.

Christena's brother George, who also has Cystic Fibrosis, lives in St. Louis to help the couple. But soon the Gabe harts and the Jones family will be headed home, back to Kentucky with the dogs to stay.

George Gabehart, Christena's father sums this family's story up like this, "When your kids can take a breath that's pretty impressive.  Most people don't see that."

 Click here to view photos taken during a recent visit to see the family in St. Louis.