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Peachtree City man thankful for new lungs

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John Currie received a double lung transplant last Thanksgiving. John Currie received a double lung transplant last Thanksgiving.
PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. -

A Peachtree City man has at least two good reasons to be thankful this holiday. Last Thanksgiving weekend, John Currie got the gift of a new pair of lungs.

It's been a rough eight years for Currie, who is 64.  Back in 2004, John went in for a checkup, feeling healthy. He wasn't.

"I was actually diagnosed with a routine x-ray from my family doctor, who said, ‘John, there is something terrible looking with your lungs, I don't know what it is,'" said Currie.

A lung specialist diagnosed John with something called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF.  
    
"It's a disease that takes over your lungs and basically turns them into useless material after 3 or 4 years," said Currie.

By 2010, John was developing pneumonia, and bronchitis and couldn't catch his breath. By the time he found Duke University's lung transplant program, he was considered "end-stage." Without a transplant, he had maybe a year to live.

So the Curries packed up and moved to Durham. John started lung rehab at Duke, to build up his strength, A week before Thanksgiving, he was placed on a national transplant waiting list.
    
"We were very excited right away because we knew this was an opportunity, but we didn't know what was ahead of us," said Nancy Currie.

The morning Thanksgiving, after just 8 days on the waiting list, John's phone rang.

"And when I heard the voice of the calm nurse on the other end, asking me if I'd had a good night's sleep, I got excited because I knew what was coming next.  And she said, ‘We want you to get to the hospital as soon as possible,'" said John Currie.

By 2:30 p.m. on Black Friday, John was in surgery.  Doctors decided he was strong enough to get through a double lung transplant, so they took out both of his hardened lungs, replacing them with healthy ones from a deceased donor.

"We were in the ICU waiting room and we heard this little sound coming down the hall.  It was 1:30 in the morning and we just heard this ‘beep, beep' sound.  And it was John coming down the hall.  And I just saw this mass of blue, and it was those wonderful professionals from Duke University," said Nancy Currie.

John's new lungs?  They were just the first miracle. Remember how they took out both the left and the right lung?

"It turns out I had cancer in my right lung that they didn't even know about until after the surgery and the pathology report was in, and had they decided to do just one lung, I may have been left with a lung with cancer in it," John Currie said.

Follow up tests showed no cancer.

A year later, John Currie is a new man.

"Every day is a gift. When I wake up and I can breathe without oxygen, it's a fantastic feeling.  There's just nothing like it," John Currie.

This year, the Curries have a lot of "thank yous" to say.

"I've had an anniversary I wouldn't have had, a birthday, Nancy's birthday, a grandbaby.  A grandbaby, about three weeks ago, and another one on the way.  I mean I've been very blessed," said John Currie.

They're grateful, too, for the donor family, somewhere out there, grieving this holiday.

"And I just pray for them to have peace and comfort in that decision, knowing that they gave life to someone, and they made that choice in a difficult time," Nancy Currie said.

"I've often wondered why I'm still here. And I still haven't figured that out yet.  But I can tell you one thing, I appreciate every day that he has given me," John Currie said.

John is now working out at his local YMCA. He is able to do little things that a lot of us take for granted, like climbing a flight of stairs, or take a brisk walk, without losing his breath. And for those things, he's thankful.

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