By Michael Buhler
Cystic fibrosis has dealt some serious blows to Christopher Simon and his family. But it has not broken them.
Christopher, who is the son of Ron and Sarah Simon of Garden Plain, is on a waiting list for a double lung and liver transplant and currently is living in St. Louis with his mother to be close to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, per transplant requirements.
However, he has accomplished a lot in his 25 years of life. He graduated from Garden Plain High School in 2006 and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State University over the next five years despite losing his sister Emily to CF in 2009 and his own battle with CF intensifying.
“He’s done a lot in his life in 25 years,” Sarah said. “He watched his sister battle this and go downhill. His disease started go downhill around that time too.”
However, Christopher has proven himself to be a fighter.
“If you don’t have a choice, you just do it,” Christopher said. “It’s either that or give up – and I don’t give up.”
While something as simple as breathing has been a battle for Christopher, it has not defeated him.
“I’m still kicking,” Christopher said. “My lung function right now is 25 percent, but that’s healthy for me. I can function and I can move around.”
CF has not kept Christopher from living a productive life, to say the least. Five years after graduating from Garden Plain, he received his master’s degree in landscape architecture in 2011.
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Christopher said. “I liked to draw and I liked to create things. Around the end of high school, I decided I liked architecture. When I got to K-State, it was No. 2 in the nation behind Harvard for architecture.
“A couple of friends told me that maybe this wasn’t the thing for me and maybe I should do something less intense, such as CAD. But I’m a typical stubborn kid – when someone tells me I can’t do something, it make me want to do it more.”
Finishing graduate school within five years of graduating high school is an accomplishment for anyone, let alone someone who is battling a life-threatening illness.
“There’s not very many who get their master’s in five years,” Sarah said. “Not many kids get their bachelor’s in five years, but he got his bachelor’s and master’s in five years. He did wonderful. It was a very tough program that he did.”
That degree program was even tougher because Christopher’s battle with CF has intensified since starting college.
“Since the beginning of college, it’s started catching up with me it,” Christopher said. “It seems like it’s kind of off and on. It’s good for a while and tougher at others. When I was working on my master’s, it seemed to take a lot out of me.”
Christopher recently moved to St. Louis with his mother to be closer to the city’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital, as the hospital requires transplant candidates to live within an hour of the hospital. He is currently on a waiting list for a lung and liver transplant.
“My situation is a little different because I have a chronic liver disease that is associated with my CF,” Christopher said. “They want to do a liver and lung transplant at the same time.” Christopher added that the wait for the double transplant could take up to two years, but could return his lung capacity to normal or near normal.
“I actually enjoy it more because there’s more to do,” Christopher said. “Growing up, I was a country boy, but I like the city now. The doctors are great here. This is what we needed. It is great up here.”
Christopher’s family and friends have rallied around him, and are planning a benefit pancake and sausage breakfast to raise funds to cover his medical expenses. The Chris Cakes Pancake and Sausage Breakfast will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, at St. Mary Immaculate Conception Church in Aleppo (north of Garden Plain). In addition to the breakfast, a quilt raffle, silent auction, and bake sale will be held at the church located at 25741 W. 13th St. in Garden Plain.
The Christopher Simon Transplant Fund has been set up at the Garden Plain State Bank. Donations can be made payable to the Christopher Simon Transplant Fund, c/o Garden Plain State Bank, 525 N. Main, Garden Plain, KS 67050. For more information on the fund, call the bank at 316-531-8800.