Christopher Nalley’s Bounce Back Story
Meet Bounce Back Winner Christopher
Winner Christopher Nalley, of Richmond, Virginia, was born with Cystic Fibrosis and at 20 years old he was put in a 5 month long drug induced coma to safely treat him for the pneumonia he developed. Due to the scaring and damage to his lungs he was listed at The University of Virginia Medical Center and remained on the list for almost two years before a set of lungs became available.
Christopher ran his first 5K just five months post transplant and says “I had been a bench warmer up until that point. After the race, I was inspired to try everything I could athletically.” Besides athletics, Chrisstopher has dedicated his life to “paying it forward”. He volunteers for LifeNet Health (our local OPO), UNOS, Donate Life Virginia, and was part of Donate Life America’s national point of view campaign, speaking to drivers education classes, speaking to area hospital staff, and area donor events. In 2007, he was asked to join the board for Donate Life Virginia as their Organ Recipient Voice, where he helped form a local transplant games in Richmond, and gain popularity and funding for the Team Virginia to travel and have uniforms for the Transplant Games of America in 2014 and 2016.
Christopher shares his story EVERYWHERE he goes because he is so grateful for the gift he has received. He knows the need is great and is dedicated to helping register more donors so that others can receive the amazing second chance at life.
Chris’s Full Story
I was born with Cystic fibrosis and spent most of my younger years in and out of the hospital fighting lung infections, pneumonia, etc. When I was 9 years old, my pulmonary doctors told me I wouldn’t make it much past the age of 21. As I reached my 20s, I was hospitalized more and more, eventually getting so sick that I was put in a 5-month long drug induced coma. It was the only way my doctors could treat me safely for pneumonia I had developed. I was put out in January, and woke up in May, after a short stint at a ventilator rehab facility, I was returned home, but was on constant 24/7 oxygen. I could not walk to the bathroom without feeling like I had run a marathon. Because there was some much scarring and damage to my lungs, the only course of treatment was a lung transplant. I was listed at The University of Virginia Medical Center and remained listed for almost 2 years before a set of lungs became available.
On July 6th, 2006, my life changed forever. I received a call at 6am that morning and was in an operating room that afternoon. Less than 24 hours later I woke up from surgery and took the longest, deepest, fullest breath of my life. I try to relate it to others, but the closest I have come is the following. If you have ever enjoyed a mint, or minty gum on a cold day, and that first breath you take, that cooling sensation. My first breath was like that. Only the feeling was felt through my whole chest.
Five months after my first transplant, I ran my first 5K. It was definitely a personal accomplishment, for someone who had been a bench warmer his whole life up to that point. After the race, I was inspired to try everything I could athletically. With the help of a few friends I started and played in an Adult Flag Football League. Where I won two championships in two different leagues. I also trained for 2 separate US transplant games. Winning Gold and Silver medals in 3 on 3 Basketball. In 2009 I ran my first marathon and most recently in 2015, in honor of my donors, and the ability to reach the age of 35, I ran 35 races. These ranged from 10Ks, 5Ks, Rugged Maniacs, Spartan races, a 5K in Colorado with my donors family, and even a 4-miler where I proposed to my wife at the finish line.
Besides athletics, I also focused on giving back. I volunteered with a local OPO (Lifenet) and UNOS, speaking to Drivers Ed classes, speaking to area hospital staffs, and at area donor events. After a spot about my story was shown in a local UVA magazine, in 2007 I was asked to join the board for Donate Life Virginia as their Organ Recipient Voice. While on the board helped form a local transplant games in Richmond, and gain popularity and funding for Team Virginia to travel and have uniforms for the game in 2014 and 2016. The local newspaper, the Richmond Times Dispatch, has also done multiple stories regarding my transplant, races, and most recently a story when Facebook added its “I’m an Organ Donor” button. I was also presented with Commending Resolution by the Virginia House of Delegates for my volunteer hours and dedication around organ donation awareness. Because of my volunteer work with organ donation, I was honored by a locally respected magazine as one of their Top 40 Under 40 in 2012.
Awards and recognition are nice, but my greatest achievement has been the ability to marry my wife. Marriage was not a thought I held in much high regard in my 20s, mostly due to my health. It simply wasn’t something I thought I would live long enough to enjoy. My wife Martina has been my biggest supporter. I would not be where I am without her love and support, and the occasional kick in the butt. Since meeting her, I have had not only a life partner but a travel buddy. Seeing parts of the world I otherwise would not have due to health concerns, Like our honeymoon to Thailand, a recent trip to Beirut, and past trips to St. Marteen, and many other trips around the US.
While organ donation is a huge part of my life, I do have a 9-5 job. I currently work for a non-profit that partners with Goodwill stores. Getting up every morning is very easy for me now. Not so much because I am considered very healthy for my condition. But, because I have the chance to get out of bed. Where my donors do not. It is thanks to them, that I am able to do the things most of us take for granted. Basically, I am forever thankful to my donor, and live each day trying to pay back a debt that, in no other words, is Priceless.