Life, one breath at a time

At age 28, Chad Southward has already wiped out two pairs of lungs, survived two catastrophic illnesses, and endured two life-saving surgeries with lengthy recoveries.

And he’s got the medical bills to show for it.

What’s more, he’s been cheated out of the newfound career he loves – one that might have helped him pay off some of those bills.

But you won’t hear him complaining. Southward is grateful for every breath.

A month after his second double lung transplant on Nov. 13, Southward’s days at Duke University Medical Center were a dizzying round of clinic visits and rehab appointments.

“Pulmonary, x-rays, bloodwork, blood gases, breathing tests, infectious disease, eye doctors, diabetes docs, bronchs and GI studies,” he recounted in a blog.

Yet, he added, “I could not ask for things to be going better. I feel amazing.

“I am walking a mile and more in 30 minutes. I am walking, biking, and lifting weights every day.”

The repeat transplant became necessary after Southward’s first set of transplanted lungs began to fail, following a triple onslaught of respiratory illnesses.

In 2009, while a teacher at Stonewall Jackson M.S. in Hanover, he went to school one day feeling under the weather. Within an hour or two, his students began to ask if he was okay.

He wasn’t. He had pneumonia, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and ended up being airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center.

And the two-year wait for a new set of lungs began.

More One-on-One
One month before his third birthday Chad Southward was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, and his parents – who had never heard of the disease – learned that the celebration might be his last.

Having suffered from symptoms of severe asthma since birth, Southward was already in and out of the doctor’s office several times a week.

But now his parents were hearing what sounded like a death sentence. He had a particularly serious form of CF, a progressive disease that produces thick mucus -- hampering breathing and digestion and scarring the lungs.

Southward’s mother, Pat Franklin, recalls that she and her husband, Stuart, eventually adopted the attitude, “God knew we were good parents and would do whatever it took to be sure Chad had the best life possible.

“We knew that God had given us an angel.”

Southward’s parents have since divorced, but remain close friends – a fact that Southward says he cherishes.

“Having to be in hospitals my whole childhood made my parents always be together, whether they were officially married or not,” he says now. “I was the bond holding them to each other.”

His mother believes that CF also brought the three of them closer together as a family.

“We were blessed with more one-on-one time with Chad,” Franklin says. “He required chest PT three times a day, and during those times we talked about school, golf, his Little League baseball team, his friends, everything and anything that might be bothering him.”

Waiting rooms
Graduating from Varina H.S. in 2001, Southward went on to Hampden-Sydney College to study English.

At 18, he had already been told that he should get on a double lung transplant list. 

“My lung function at that time was a reasonable 30 percent,” says Southward. “Three years later, when I finally received the long-awaited call for the transplant, I was living with 18 percent lung function.”

It was during that three-year wait for the first transplant that Southward says he hit his lowest point. He became so sick his junior year that the doctor advised him to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University, to be closer to MCV. So Southward struggled through a semester at VCU – only to learn that he would not be able to take his exams at the hospital and complete the courses.

“I thought I’d done everything for nothing,” Southward says. “I wanted to give up. . . [until] Dad talked me out of it.”

Re-enrolling at HSC, Southward acknowledged that he might die before finishing the semester.

“But that’s where I wanted to be,” he says. “[At least I’d be] pursuing something, not just sitting home and giving up.”

When the call came that his new lungs were ready, Southward was visiting his friend and roommate, Shawn Shurm, at the river.

On his blog, he recalls that his mother began crying hysterically as soon as she saw the number appear on caller ID. “She was running around the house, throwing clothes into a suitcase,” Southward writes. “I learned later all she packed was two pairs of socks and 15 pairs of underwear.” 

Of the operation, he acknowledges, he had it easy compared to his parents.

“I was asleep the whole time. I cannot imagine the stress of being awake all those 13 hours, not knowing if your child was going to live through a surgery most people would not survive. 

“[In my parents minds] I guess I died and came back to life hundreds of times during that waiting room period of time.”

Southward’s mother contends that only twice did Chad truly scare his parents: during a 30-day hospital stay in his freshman year of college; and during the more recent bout of pneumonia, flu, and RSV.

“Within 24 hours [of the 2009 illness] he was on life support,”says Franklin. “I can truly say that was the only time when his dad and I thought we might not be bringing him home.”

‘I owe her a lot’
Since his November transplant, Southward has spent large parts of his days at the gym – on a regimen to exercise his new lungs – and playing with his dogs.

“They’ve definitely helped me these last two years,” he says of Ally and Dusty, recalling the pre-transplant days when he was on oxygen and needed a walker to move. “They keep me company; they’ve kept me going.”

He is also considering possibilities for his next career move, now that the doctors have nixed a return to teaching.

“Too many germs,” he says with a sad shrug. But he stays in touch with former students from Stonewall Jackson, and from the small private school where he taught earlier, via Facebook.

His surgery, new set of lungs, and medication all come with high price tags. But with the help of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA), Southward’s family and friends are organizing fundraising events [see below] to offset the costs. Meanwhile, he faces follow-up stomach surgery this month -- and the bill for the transplant has yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, there’s another big event to prepare for: his June 25 wedding day.

Four years ago, he met fiancee Lauren Lacy online. The fourth grade teacher at Glen Lea E.S. has given him new motivation to make the most of this third chance at life.

“[After I met Lauren] I knew I wasn’t just here for me any more,” says Southward. “Lauren saved me in a way. She’s stuck around, and that’s something most people wouldn’t have done.

“I owe her a lot.”

‘Your loved one walks with me’
In addition to crediting his fiancee, his parents, and friends when it comes to motivation and inspiration, Southward is keenly aware that he owes his second and third chances at life to the donors who gave their lungs.

Several months after his first transplant, Southward wrote a letter to the family of the anonymous donor and told them he would soon graduate from college.   

“Take my graduation,” he said, “as a moment both of us, me and my donor, walk across that stage to celebrate life.” 

Noting that his Hampden-Sydney classmates called him “Iron Lungs,” and that he had never been able to walk across campus until his transplant, Southward told the donor family, “Every time I take a breath, your loved one takes a breath. Every time I take a step, your loved one walks with me.”

Southward’s own parents say that he is an inspiration to them as well.

“He is driven, goal-oriented, funny, loving, and caring,” says Franklin. “He touches people’s hearts whenever they meet him. Our friends, the doctors, nurses, everyone that he meets, they instantly fall in love with him.”

All in all, says Southward, having CF has given him a unique -- and breathtakingly positive -- outlook on life.

“It almost brings out the best in other people, people who hardly know you,” he points out, citing nurses, doctors, and fellow CF patients he has met. He is also still close to the teacher -- now a frequent dinner guest -- who visited him during the childhood hospital stays known as “tune-ups.”

“I had professors from Hampden-Sydney drive to MCV to give me lessons,” he says, adding that the college also made numerous concessions to his illness. “I could park anywhere; I could drive on the sidewalk. They even gave me a golf cart and a scooter.”

He laughs as he recalls the one stipulation that the campus police chief put on his use of the golf cart.

“He told me, ‘If I see it in Fraternity Circle, it’s mine!’”

And, Southward adds, “The president of Hampden-Sydney called me continuously after the [first] transplant to see how I was doing.”

“You really learn about the good of people,” muses Southward.

“CF gave me a lot more than it took away.”

The “Take a Deep Breath” benefit concert will take place at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at Sandston Baptist Church, 100 W. Williamsburg Rd. The concert is free; however, donations will be accepted to help offset Southward’s transplant-related costs.  For concert information, contact Bonnie Abernathy at 737-0306 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Donations may be also be made at any Wachovia Bank branch location using account number 3000165612039,  or mailed to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 West COTA Drive, Bloomington, Indiana, 47403. Checks or money orders should be made payable to COTA, with “In Honor of Chad Scott S.” written on the memo line of the check. Secure credit card donations are also accepted online at http://www.COTAforChadScottS.com; the site also features information about future fundraisers, past blogs and other updates. 
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‘Hello Kitty Truck’ rolls into Short Pump Saturday


MAR. 23, 12 P.M. – Hello Kitty fans, rejoice. On Saturday, the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck, described as “a mobile vehicle of cuteness,” will make its first visit to the region.

The truck will be at Short Pump Town Center, 11800 W. Broad St., from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. The vehicle will be near the mall’s main entrance by Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.

The Hello Kitty Cafe Truck has been traveling nationwide since its debut at the 2014 Hello Kitty Con, a convention for fans of the iconic character produced by the Japanese company Sanrio. > Read more.

Governor vetoes Republicans’ ‘educational choice’ legislation


Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Thursday vetoed several bills that Republicans say would have increased school choice but McAuliffe said would have undermined public schools.

Two bills, House Bill 1400 and Senate Bill 1240, would have established the Board of Virginia Virtual School as an agency in the executive branch of state government to oversee online education in kindergarten through high school. Currently, online courses fall under the Virginia Board of Education. > Read more.

School supply drive, emergency fund to help Baker E.S. students and faculty


Individuals and organizations wanting to help George F. Baker Elementary School students and staff recover from a March 19 fire at the school now have two ways to help: make a monetary donation or donate items of school supplies.

The weekend fire caused significant smoke-and-water damage to classroom supplies and student materials at the school at 6651 Willson Road in Eastern Henrico.

For tax-deductible monetary donations, the Henrico Education Foundation has created the Baker Elementary School Emergency School Supply Fund. > Read more.

Nominations open for 2017 IMPACT Award


ChamberRVA is seeking nominees for the annual IMPACT Award, which honors the ways in which businesses are making an impact in the RVA Region economy and community and on their employees.

Nominees must be a for-profit, privately-held business located within ChamberRVA's regional footprint: the counties of Charles City, Chesterfield, Goochland, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent and Powhatan; the City of Richmond; and the Town of Ashland. > Read more.

Business in brief


Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer announces the sale of the former Friendly’s restaurant property located at 5220 Brook Road in Henrico County. Brook Road V, LLC purchased the 3,521-square-foot former restaurant property situated on 0.92 acres from O Ice, LLC for $775,000 as an investment. Bruce Bigger of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer handled the sale negotiations on behalf of the seller. > Read more.
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Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

CAT Theatre to present ‘When There’s A Will’


CAT Theatre and When There’s A Will director Ann Davis recently announced the cast for the dark comedy which will be performed May 26 through June 3.

The play centers around a family gathering commanded by the matriarch, Dolores, to address their unhappiness with Grandmother’s hold on the clan’s inheritance and her unreasonable demands on her family.

Pat Walker will play the part of Dolores Whitmore, with Graham and Florine Whitmore played by Brent Deekens and Brandy Samberg, respectively. > Read more.

 

March 2017
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