Christena and Kevin Jones have been fighting for their lives since they were born.
Kevin and Christena, who live in Knifley, have both been battling a disorder called Cystic Fibrosis, or what is commonly known as CF.
Kevin was diagnosed shortly before his first birthday and Christena, originally from Bullitt County, was diagnosed at birth. The couple, who grew up living almost two hours away from each other, met in 2005 while they were both being treated at the same CF center in St. Louis, Mo.
CF is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas, liver and intestines. The disorder causes issues with proteins that allow a person to sweat or produce mucus.
“It’s the number one genetic killer of children,” said Debra Gabehart, Christena’s mother. “It affects all of the mucous producing organs.”
A major side effect of the disorder is the need for multiple organ transplants, such as the lung and liver. Kevin has had a double lung and liver transplant while Christena has had a double lung transplant.
CHRISTENA AND KEVIN’S STORY
Kevin, who grew up in Knifley, was diagnosed with CF just before his first birthday. After dealing with the side effects of the disease for nearly 10 years, Kevin was put on a transplant list. By the time he was 12 he received a double lung and liver transplant.
The recovery of the transplant was difficult at such as young age, and Kevin lived in the hospital for nearly four months after the surgery.
Christena keeps a blog about their journey with CF at the website www.christenasjourney.com. She writes that despite the fact that Kevin has CF, he doesn’t let it keep him from enjoying life. He still loves to hunt and fish, she writes.
In 2005, Christena received a double lung transplant at the CF center in St. Louis. This is where she met Kevin.
“We had heard his name around before,” Gabehart said. “When we found out they were in the hospital, we invited him and his parents in to talk with Christena.”
Both sets of parents along with Christena and Kevin met at the CF center that day, but their story as a couple didn’t begin until 2007.
In 2007, Christena added Kevin on Facebook. At the time, she was attending Western Kentucky University. Kevin also attended WKU. She asked him to meet her for dinner, but Kevin was no longer attending WKU. Even so, he still made the two-hour drive to see her.
Christena blogged about how Kevin changed the way she looked at life.
“I quit planning everything and began enjoying more, living more and actually breathing more,” Christena wrote. “I learned things I never thought I’d care to learn, like fishing and tracking animals and I began loving this life he showed me.”
The couple married in July 2010 and lived in Knifley up until a couple of months ago.
Christena’s body rejected her original double lung transplant, so she is on the organ donor waiting list.
Christena and Kevin are now living in St. Louis where Christena is waiting for her second double lung transplant.
They both understand that life’s decisions often have to be made around their medical needs.
“If our parents were truthful with themselves, they’d probably admit that they didn’t see their children enjoying a normal life, graduating high school or attending college, and they definitely didn’t envision their children getting married,” Christena wrote.
“I grew up knowing that this was my life. I still enjoyed normal childhood things, but they always had a medical aspect. All of my favorite baby dolls went to the surgery with me. Each one got IVs and broviacs. I had more bags of medical supplies to play doctor than I had Barbie dolls,” she continued.
Christena’s mom said she even took her IVs to school.
“Because its all she’s ever known, she is okay,” Gabehart said.
When she was 16 she was put on oxygen full time. She couldn’t do much because of her lungs, Gabehart said.
It has been an uphill battle since Christena had her transplant.
“We almost lost her but she fought like crazy,” Gabehart said. “She is my hero. I’ve never seen anybody fight the way I’ve seen her fight.”
Since Christena’s body is rejecting the original transplant, she has no other option but to get another one, her mother continued.
The couple is currently in St. Louis awaiting the second transplant.
BENEFIT FOR CHRISTENA AND KEVIN
There will be a benefit for Christena and Kevin on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Adair County Elementary School. All proceeds from the event will go to the family.
By Allison Cross