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A Second Wind

With new lungs, a Richmond man is running full speed ahead

At age 26, Chris Nalley woke up in the hospital and took his first real deep breath.

Lung transplant Article Polaroid ImageThat life-changing moment two summers ago was made possible by a lung transplantation that replaced his lungs ravaged by cystic fibrosis (CF).

Nalley hasn’t stopped moving since his operation at UVA.

Within eight months of his surgery, he had run an 8K race — an incredible feat considering that before the surgery his poor lung function left him breathless just walking down a hall.

CF is a genetic disorder that plugs up lungs with thick mucus. Without new lungs, people with CF typically die in their 20s of respiratory failure.

Nalley was put on the organ waiting list after being hospitalized for four months with pneumonia. He spent a year and a half on the waiting list (most of the time on the couch).

“The first couple of months after the surgery were just amazing to me. It’s like having a new life,” Nalley says. “I celebrate the day of my surgery like a new birthday.”

Chances are Nalley will have more birthdays to celebrate.

UVA’s Lung Transplant Program achieved the nation’s highest survival rate in recent years. According to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients, the one-year survival rate at UVA was 98.08 percent compared to 87.6 percent nationwide. And 81.4 percent of UVA’s lung transplant recipients reached the three-year survival milestone, exceeding the 68.3 percent nationwide average.

Effective teamwork makes a difference, says David R. Jones, M.D., surgical director of UVA’s Lung Transplant Program and Nalley’s surgeon.

“UVA has the busiest transplantation program in the state,” Jones notes. “This is because of the excellent skills and care offered by our team of surgeons, nurses, residents, occupational therapists, and psychologists.”

Nalley is the ideal lung transplant recipient, adds Mark Robbins, M.D., medical director of UVA’s Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program, the state’s most experienced such program.

“These patients,” says Robbins, “have lived with a chronic disease all their life. It’s exceptional that Chris is so motivated and getting full capacity out of his lungs.”

The Gift of Life
More than 96,000 people in the United States are waiting for an organ. To become an organ donor in Virginia, visit donatelifevirginia.org.
Your organ and tissue donation could potentially save the lives of seven people.