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From Day One, Michael Pardue’s life has been tough.
He was born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic terminal disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 people in the United States.
But after struggling with just catching his breath for 24 years, the son of Joey Pardue and Len and Judy Robinson is now breathing a little easier.
Michael underwent a double lung transplant during eight hours of surgery at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill on Oct. 1.
While inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide is something most of us take for granted, the same can’t be said for Michael.
“Things are going all right,” Michael said Monday after undergoing a bronchoscopy that allows the doctors to look inside his lungs to check for complications.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” he said. “I’m feeling like I’ve never felt before. A lot of things get taken for granted by a lot of different people. You don’t know what it’s like until something gets taken away from you.”
Legally deaf from the antibiotics he’s taken for several years to treat his CF, Michael handed the phone to his mom to finish our short chat.
“He’s doing awesome,” his mom, Judy, said Monday. “He’s awake, alert and can actually walk farther and faster than he previously could.”
Michael said he covets all the support and prayers from his friends and family back here in Lancaster.
“It means everything,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going.”
Like many on a transplant list, Michael’s road has been rocky. He got a call about seven months ago to come to UNC for a dry run, which means they had Michael a set a lungs. They got him ready for surgery, but Michael and his parents were told at the last minute that it was a “no-go.”
“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Judy said. “Before the transplant, Michael was worried. He said that it was really sad that someone else had to die in order for him to live. But it’s amazing that whoever did this... we are forever grateful and indebted.”
But that ride is starting to level off. After panting for his breath for almost a year, now Michael is seldom coughing and his respiratory rate is much improved, thanks to his new lungs.
“It’s unusual to see him normally breathing,” Judy said. “His oxygen levels are good and he’s really doing great.”
But that doesn’t mean Michael will be coming home anytime soon.
Judy said her son suffered two minor strokes since the transplant surgery and doctors are continuing tests to find the cause. She said neurological complications can happen any time the lungs are taken away from the heart.
“They’re watching him to make sure he doesn’t have any major damage from that,” she said.
For now, the Robinsons are leasing a home near the university.
“He has to remain 10 minutes away from the hospital for three months,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll get him out of the hospital in a few weeks. We take it day by day.”
Even with health insurance, a double lung transplant is costly. Some health plans pay part of the expenses but not all the related costs. Michael is an active member of the non-profit Children’s Organ Transplant Association, which assists patients who need organ, bone marrow, cord blood and stem cell transplants.
But apart from that, his family must come up with about $55,000.
Several local fundraisers have been held. Judy is scared to mention anyone who has helped by name, fearing to leave someone out. But there have been baseball and softball tournaments, magic shows and Christian music concerts.
“It’s been unbelievable at the number of people who have stepped up. It’s amazing what our community has done. People have really gone out of the way to help. We want everyone to know we appreciate all they’ve done.”
Several more fundraisers are planned, including a Nov. 6 chili cook-off at the Hot Box on Elm Street. It was originally planned for Saturday at the American Legion, put was moved to the Hot Box on Nov. 6.
Prizes for best chili include $150 for first, $50 for second and $25 for the people’s choice award. The entry fee is $30 for the contest. For details, call (803) 287-7743.
Don’t be surprised to see a couple of familiar faces in the contest mix. Gregg Shipston, the culinary arts teacher at Lancaster High School and I have decided to enter the competition together.
We aren’t about to share our recipe, but if you don’t think your chili is good enough for this fun fundraiser, here is one to try.
Firehouse Chili Con Carne is a hearty and spicy dish that is courtesy of the National Fire Prevention Association’s website.
There is a photo of the chili posted on our website, www.thelancaster-news.com.
Here’s hoping to see you at the Hot Box.
– Greg Summers is features editor of The Lancaster News
Firehouse Chili Con Carne
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2.5 pounds lean ground beef
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (1.14 ounces) McCormick Chili Powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups water, or more as needed
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained, not rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained, not rinsed
– Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about five minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the ground beef and cook for about 10 minutes. As ground beef browns, use a wooden spoon to break it into small pieces.
– Drain ground beef and return to pot. Add garlic, chili powder, ground cumin, black, cayenne and chipotle peppers, oregano and sugar. Cook, stirring for two minutes until meat is thoroughly coated.
– Stir in the bell peppers, tomato sauce, tomato paste and water. Bring up to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
– Stir in beans and simmer for another 45 minutes. If needed, add more water during the cooking to adjust desired thickness.
– Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with sour cream, grated pepperjack cheese and fresh cilantro and serve hot.
– Recipe from National Fire Prevention Association