Henrico County VA
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Life, one breath at a time

Henrico man recovering after second double-lung transplant
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. 


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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