After 33 years, Michael Keller of Bellefonte can finally breathe easy.
In December, Keller underwent a double-lung transplant to treat the cystic fibrosis that has been his constant and unwelcomed companion since early infancy.
The hardest part —that would be the one involving a 12-hour medical procedure — is behind him. Now is a time to rejoice, get back in the gym and start breaking in the newest additions to his respiratory system.
“I feel like I did when I was kid playing soccer again,” Keller said.
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This is not a sentiment that you expect to hear from a man who has spent the better part of the past three years toting around spare oxygen tanks.
In the beginning, the cystic fibrosis actually wasn’t that bad. Keller was active in sports right up until high school, when the natural progression of his illness left his body with precious little air to spare.
The symptoms and the man continued to grow in tandem. There were all of the usual milestones— high school graduation, first job, marriage — punctuated by the acquisition of an in-home oxygen concentrator and then two portable tanks for travel.
It was a long tether, but a tether all the same.
“I really just got to the point in my life where I felt that I was surviving instead of living,” Keller said.
By his early 30s, Keller had finally satisfied the very specific set of criteria to which doctors held potential transplant patients.
“They want you to be sick enough to need it but healthy enough to survive it,” Keller said.
His name hit the transplant list just prior to Thanksgiving 2016 and two weeks later a pair of lungs was waiting for him in Chicago.
It was uncommonly quick turnaround and Keller found himself calling friends and family members from the car to prepare them for what was about to happen on an operating table in Pittsburgh.
“It was a miracle. It caught me off guard,” Keller said.
Two months after the surgery, that miracle is still holding up. To help pay for costs of the procedure and the medicine necessary to keep his body from rejecting its newest tenants, Keller’s friends are organizing a comedy show fundraiser at Celebration Hall in State College.
The event, to be held from 9-11 p.m. on Feb. 17, will feature the talents of comedians Louis Ramey and Peyton Clarkson and a silent auction. Interested parties can purchase tickets for $20 by contacting Jackie Gates at 234-0417.
IF YOU GO
What: Comedy Show Fundraiser
When: 9-11 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Celebration Hall, 2280 Commercial Blvd., State College
Info: 234-0417, firstname.lastname@example.org