Up Close & Personal with Chris Young

Pictured: Chris Young and Chelsea Ryan

The key is, “Attitude. Not back, always looking forward.”

Diagnosed with CF when he was just three months old, Chris Young did not let CF stop him from playing softball or basketball, or, for that matter, from becoming a nuclear engineer.

The youngest of three children, Chris grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania and graduated from Penn State. He secured a job one month later at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna, and, at the age of 26 became a proud home owner in Albany.

But, he said, in a matter of months after starting his fulltime job, his health began to deteriorate. “I was sicker than I ever could have imagined,” he said. “It was scary.”

Chris’s physician, Dr. Jon Rosen, head of the Adult CF Center at Albany Medical Center, had brought up the topic of lung transplant, but Chris didn’t think it applied to him. Little did he know that a year and a half after that conversation, he would be waiting for a new pair of lungs. It was that fast.

Chris began the transplant odyssey, which involves a weeklong intensive screening process at ColumbiaPresbyterian
Hospital in New York City, his hospital of choice.

“I received a check for $1,000 from the Foundation,” Chris said. “It really came in handy the week I was there for testing because costs start to add up, especially in the city.”

On April 1, just five days after being ‘listed’ for transplant, Chris’s pager went off, indicating his new lungs were waiting for him. He was flown from Albany Medical Center to Manhattan. A few hours after arrival, a nurse advised him that the lungs were declined, making it Chris’s first official “Dry Run.” Most patients anticipating transplant go through at least one or more, but Chris took it in stride.

The call came so soon, he recalled, that “It didn’t feel real from the beginning, so I wasn’t too disappointed. Besides, how many people get a sunrise helicopter tour of Manhattan?”

So he went back to Albany Medical Center to wait. The next call came just three weeks later, on Monday night, April 23, 2007 at 9:20. Chris remembers the date and time exactly because he was doing what he does every Monday night: watching “Heroes” with a group of friends and his sisters, Adele and Alyssa. Only this time they were in the Donna Crandall Lounge on the CF floor, E5, at the hospital. The lounge, he said, offered a welcome alternative to his room, especially because there was more space for everyone to hang out and the TV screen was a lot bigger.

“Two nurses came running in to the lounge, yelling at me to pack up my stuff,” he recalled. “It was really cool because all of my friends and my sisters were there with me when the call came.”