PERU — With a new set of lungs and determination of steel, Chad Kiniry will celebrate Christmas at home in Peru.
“We didn’t tell anybody we were coming home because we didn’t want to jinx it,” his fiancee, Lindsay Mold, said on Thursday.
Kiniry, 33, who has cystic fibrosis, traveled a rocky road over the past year, with months in hospitals and coming close to death more than once.
He had been put on the list for a lung transplant in December 2012 but then fell ill last spring with an infection that wasn’t responding to antibiotics.
It spread to his bloodstream, and he suffered respiratory failure and was put on life support.
Flown to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Kiniry was hooked up to an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO) that did the work for his lungs.
The ECMO is effective for a limited time, however, and while he was put back on the transplant list on July 3, the machine stopped working for him on July 7.
In the absence of donor lungs, the only way to save his life at that point was to connect the ECMO directly to his heart.
That surgery was minutes away when the call came — donor lungs had been found.
It was perfect timing, Mold, said — like something straight out of a movie.
“I always wanted to be a movie star,” Kiniry joked.
While the double lung transplant gave him a new lease on life, it brought with it other monumental issues, including a paralyzed vocal cord and pneumonia.
His stomach isn’t emptying food correctly, and he’s currently fed through a tube.
So he’s not looking forward to Christmas dinner, he said, but his appetite for time with his family and friends is enormous.
“I’m very glad to be home,” he said.
Kiniry wasn’t considered healthy enough for the lung transplant, and doctors weren’t sure it would be successful, Mold said, “but they believed in him.
“His doctor couldn’t believe that just a couple weeks before he was here, he was out riding his motorcycle with me on the back with an oxygen tank in the backpack,” she said.
“He never lets anything stop him.”
’LIKE A ROCK’
Months in bed impaired nerve function in Kiniry’s feet, but he’s hoping the feeling will return to them by the time the weather’s right for biking.
“I’ve never known someone who’s got such a will to live and to get through everything that he’s been through,” Mold said.
“Wherever we are, if we can be together, that’s all that matters.”
Kiniry said Mold also has awesome willpower.
“She’s like a rock; she’s always there,” he said.
A nurse, Mold was working at Fletcher Allen Health Care when she met Kiniry.
Her nursing background has been immensely helpful, she said, though sometimes it was scary understanding how bad the situation really was.
“I think if I wasn’t a nurse, I’d be 10 times more overwhelmed,” she said.
Her expertise helps tremendously, Kiniry said.
“She knows the terminology a lot better than I do,” he said. “She knows what the doctors are saying, she knows all the meds, which is good.”
’GOT EACH OTHER’
The many complications that followed Kiniry’s transplant have made healing more difficult, Mold said.
He was discharged from the Boston hospital for a few months but had to stay close by so his treatment team could keep an eye on him.
The couple stayed at a hotel, but then he was readmitted when his kidneys stopped working.
“It’s been a really, really long, rough road,” Mold said.
Kiniry had to leave his job as head mechanic at Bluff Point Golf Resort in Plattsburgh last January; Mold quit her job in June to devote herself completely to her fiance and his health issues.
So neither has had an income for many months.
“It’s hard, but we’ve got each other, and we’re going to get through it,” she said.
’A FINE LINE’
Christmas Eve, Mold’s family will celebrate with the couple in Peru; Christmas Day will be devoted to Kiniry’s family, including a niece born just a few days ago.
Kiniry will travel to Boston monthly to see his primary-care team; Mold said he will receive care at Fletcher Allen in the interim.
It’s vital that his physicians keep close tabs on how he is doing, she said.
“There’s a very fine line between being healthy and not so healthy,” she said.
“The new lungs are working pretty good compared to my old ones,” Kiniry said.
“I’m doing pretty good, trying to stay active, do my exercises — trying to take advantage of these new lungs.”
— News Editor Suzanne Moorecontributed to this report.
HOW TO HELP
Family and friends are raising money to help pay for Chad Kiniry's medical bills costs related to many months in Boston.
To help, visit the Give Forward website at http://tinyurl.com/l8j4wjd. As of Thursday, giving totaled $3,231 of the $8,000 goal.