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Transplant recipient beats odds, returns home for Christmas

Lindsey Chesteen waited more than four years for a double-lung transplant. He had been turned away from several major medical centers, leaving him hopeless and growing sicker by the day.

But this fall, physicians at the Florida Hospital Transplant Institute gave Chesteen a chance.

Chesteen, who lives near Atlanta and had never heard of Florida Hospital, traveled via ambulance to Orlando. The medical team spent weeks nursing Chesteen to better health so he could undergo the transplant.

When the fateful day came in October, Chesteen’s heart stopped beating on the operating table. Doctors revived him, completed the double-lung transplant, and he’s been recuperating in Orlando.

“It’s just been a blessing,” Chesteen said. “It’s a great feeling to be able to breathe on your own.”

This week, Chesteen is returning to Georgia, just in time to celebrate Christmas.

Chesteen suffers from sarcoidosis, which causes scar tissues to form on the lungs. His health deteriorated significantly as he searched for a medical team that would perform a transplant.

“He shouldn’t have survived this,” said Dr. Cynthia Gries, the pulmonologist who treated Chesteen, along with Dr. Duane Davis, a heart and thoracic surgeon. “As sick as he was, if we didn’t have all the pieces in place, there’s a chance he wasn’t going to live.”

On Tuesday, Chesteen said goodbye to the nurses and clinical team who cared for him since September.

Chesteen said he has much to be thankful for, especially the medical team and family that donated their loved one’s organs.

“It’s going to be a great Christmas,” he said.