With bated breath he ran across that finish line, not because he wanted to come first place or be an athlete. He ran with a new set of lungs, take it for a test-drive and breathe like he never did before.
Eammon Kelly ran for a cause, to create an awareness and inspire people about organ donation, so many like him would get an opportunity to give someone or get from someone, an organ they need for survival. His story?1
When Eammon was born he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. An uncommon genetic degenerative condition, which creates thick accumulation of mucous in the lungs and other organs. This then causes blockages in the breathing channels, traps bacteria, leading to infectious diseases and even lung failure, in the long-run.
Statistically, those with cystic fibrosis take up life-extending treatments, but their average lifespan is said to be till their late 30’s.
Over 30,000 people in the United States have cystic fibrosis. And Eammon is one of the inspiring stories among them.
His daily activities were limited because of his low respiratory capacity, for which he depended on a mobile oxygen tank to breathe, for about four years.
Although he mostly walked and rode a stationary bike, he hoped that he’d be able to be more active and live a normal life after his surgery.
And then he finally got his double-lung transplant done.
After the surgery, he took about 40 steps and continued to build his strength. As the days followed, he walked more around the hospital.
After he was discharged from the hospital, he went to rehab, to improve his respiratory and physical stamina. Some include, going on the treadmill at about three miles an hour, running and even going with his wife, Elana Alfred, for those long hikes without having to lug around an oxygen tank.
With his therapists help, he tried going 10 miles per hour, but didn’t last even 10 seconds, so he used a time and not distance measurement for his activity.
He started with a 15 second run followed by a break then another 15 seconds. So, his new lungs and him could work together and get stronger.
Within a month, Eammon ran a quarter of a mile without any problems and realized the time increment method worked out better for him.
With a slow and steady progress, he saw himself getting faster with more stamina.
And one fine day, Eammon came across a 5k run that was hosted by the Boston College Race to Educate, which helped his school, Saint Columbkille Partnership School which was happening exactly on the date six months after his transplant.
It was almost a sign.
So, his steady progress worked towards participating in that race, to celebrate his new lungs. And within six months, he could do what he couldn’t seven years before the transplant.
He cut it a little close, as he couldn’t run on the treadmill for even three miles just a month prior to the race.
But on the day of the race, Eammon was ready and finished 5k within 38 minutes and 33 seconds, carrying out the dream of almost every cystic fibrosis patient out there.
Doctors are still uncertain about how long Eammon’s lungs will keep him alive, but he is making full use of it, from making travel plans with his wife, to buying a place of their own and starting a family.
Eammon is still making it a personal mission to encourage all those waiting for organs or those with cystic fibrosis to never quit on themselves.