A last place finish to remember

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO BY TIM GOODWIN

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. TIM GOODWIN—Ledger Transcript

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. TIM GOODWIN—Ledger Transcript

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO BY TIM GOODWIN

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. TIM GOODWIN—Ledger Transcript

  • Less than a year after undergoing a double lung transplant, Antrim resident Kevin Quigley walked the Run for the Honey in Hancock on Saturday. TIM GOODWIN—Ledger Transcript

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/23/2018 9:56:04 AM

Long after the cowbells stopped ringing, the orange cones had been put away and the crowd had navigated toward the bandstand for the Run for the Honey award ceremony, Kevin Quigley slowly made his was down Main Street in Hancock.

Even though Quigley started Saturday’s annual 5K at 7:38 a.m., 22 minutes before everyone else, he was by far the last one to finish – and that was totally fine with the 64-year-old from Antrim.

His time on the official results said that Quigley finished in one hour, but that’s just when they turned off the clock. It actually took Quigley one hour, 39 minutes and 56 seconds to complete the hilly course, a bit of a disappointment with a goal of one hour and 15 minutes.

“I was hoping to do better, but I finished,” he said.

The only way Quigley knows how long it actually took is because he started the stopwatch app on his phone before embarking on the three-plus mile journey. It was much slower than the last two 5Ks he had done – all three of which he walked – but the humid and muggy conditions were not ideal. Especially for someone who is less than a year removed from a double lung transplant.

To the casual observer, Quigley and his daughter, Juniper Christgau, who after finishing her race ran back to find her dad, doing so at the Hancock Fire Department, looked like a couple of 5K participants just walking around town still wearing their race bibs. But no, Quigley was on a mission to finish, a goal he set almost a year ago.

“One of these days he’ll beat me,” Christgau said.

After receiving his new lungs on Sept. 15, 2017, Quigley wanted to do two things: run a 5K with his daughter within the first year post operation, and dance at his then 13-year-old granddaughter’s wedding, whenever that day might come down the road. Having goals is a big part of the recovery process and Quigley decided on a couple that would both force short term improvements and many years of good living ahead.

And while he didn’t exactly contend for the win at Hancock’s annual Old Home Day road race, or even run for that fact, Quigley still has hope of doing at least some running in the next 5K he has lined up next month in Brattleboro.

“This is just part of my rehab,” he said.

Baby steps is the name of the game in his recovery, but so far so good. Quigley has met a lot of people when he was sick with COPD (from years of smoking and “sucking dust” as a carpenter), while he was awaiting a transplant and post-op. Everyone has a different story to tell in the recovery process and he’s just glad he’s alive to share it.

Quigley still doesn’t know where his new lungs came from, only that they were “young and a perfect fit.” He wrote a letter to the organization who handled the organ donation to be passed on to the family. He’d like to thank them one day, but so far hasn’t received any return correspondence.

“They were mourning and grieving and may not want to know anything,” he said.

It was 2009 when Quigley first went to the doctor to get his breathing checked. He had been sick for a long time before that, but he never took the time to go to the doctor. His first hospitalization came in 2011 and that’s when the recommendation for a transplant was first brought up. “I didn’t think I was worthy. I had done this to myself,” he said.

With each hospitalization, it became more evident he would need a transplant to live any extended amount of time. “Every time I got sick, it got worse,” he said. Before his transplant, he needed a walker and “a can of gas.”

“Nobody understands it,” Quigley said. “If you haven’t lived where you can’t breathe, you don’t know what it’s really like. I was in bad shape.”

But it isn’t easy to get on the list. It took Quigley numerous times of being tested and about two and a half years before he finally got in line for new lungs. From there it took about seven weeks before he got the call that a match had been found.

“They called me on a Wednesday night and said come down tomorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning,” Quigley said.

The five-hour surgery began at 11:30 p.m. that Thursday night. He lost half his blood in the recovery room and spent three days in the ICU – and two weeks total at Mass General.

He can still remember that first full breath after they took out of the breathing tube as the freshest air he’s ever had. And the grape popsicle “is still the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.”

But Quigley considers himself lucky because 11 months after surgery, he hasn’t had any setbacks or complications. Sure he got diabetes from the medication and has to “take about 20 pills in the morning, insulin, two or 3 liquids and another dozen pills around supper time,” but if that will allow him to one day dance at his granddaughter’s wedding, so be it.

The last few years has really opened his eyes to the importance of organ donation.

“Everyone should be an organ donor,” Quigley said. “I was going to die otherwise, so I want to honor this gracious gift.”

The only thing that kept him strong enough for surgery, Quigley said, was his commitment to working out with the Outpatient Pulmonary Fitness program at the Bond Wellness Center. And he continues to go to the Wellness Center two to three days a week, walking on the treadmill, using the rowing machine and stationary bike, and lifting weights.

It’s been a steady progression that Quigley one day hopes turns into the ability to run a 5K. But for now, he’s fine with slowly walking, with his family cheering him on to the finish line.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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