Vermont man gets new lung for Christmas

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. (WCAX) A Springfield couple is celebrating 2019 and looking forward to the future.

Just looking at Robert Redfield, you would never know he's recovering from an eight-hour lung transplant that took place just a few weeks earlier.

"Feeling pretty good," Redfield said. "Feeling pretty great actually, still get winded."

After lifting up his shirt, the scars tell a different story. Several years ago, the Springfield man was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. Average life expectancy is five years.

"You are given, a well you are going to die soon sort of thing, which kind of put me in a state of shock," Redfield said.

And it was a shock for his wife of 10 years.

"The person you love and have been with and is your partner has basically been given a life sentence," Alysia Redfield, his wife, said.

IPF is known as a progressive disease with no cure. Idiopathic means the cause is also not known.

"The lung is usually light and spongy and fibrosis is the process by which it gets hard and shrunken," said Dr. Graham Atkins of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Common symptoms are shortness of breath that gets progressively worse and a cough that doesn't seem to go away.

"The cough tends to be dry so you don't produce phlegm with it," Atkins said. "It is persistent so it doesn't get better with antibiotics or over the counter therapy."

Doctors say IPF usually affects men in their 50s. Redfield is 53.

"It's known to primary care doctors, but often diagnose late," Atkins said. "I think the earlier we can diagnose this, the earlier we can treat it."

After his diagnosis, Redfield joined new drug studies. They are still ongoing, but a lung transplant soon became his best option.

As time ticked by, he spent at least a year on the donor list at two different hospitals. Finally, he got a call.

"December 23rd, at 6 o'clock at night," Redfield said.

Within a couple of hours, he was on a plane with his wife headed to the NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. He was in surgery the next day on Christmas Eve.

"It was the best Christmas present gift I could have received," Alysia said. "Just having the weight lifted, knowing that he could be able to get back to the life he was used to."

A couple days later, Redfield was back on his feet. He just returned to Vermont and says his new lung could buy him another 20 years.

"It's a new lease of life," Redfield said. "It is an absolute gift."

A gift just in time for the holidays, offering a fresh start to the new year.

Click here to read more about Redfield's story.