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Transplant survivor surpassing doctors' expectations

Tim Choquette was told he had two weeks to live in 1994, so he underwent an experimental living lung transplant.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Today, Tim Choquette is the picture of health, but things have not always been so good. Fifteen years ago, the married father of two, who has cystic fibrosis, desperately needed a lung transplant.

"He was so close to death," his brother, David Choquette, said. "He was within two weeks of dying."

Tim Choquette couldn't wait for a typical transplant from a deceased donor, so doctors at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill decided to perform their first ever "living lung transplant," taking one lobe from each of his two older brothers – an experimental procedure at the time that could prove fatal for the three.

"Many people die waiting because there aren't enough donors to go around," said Dr. James Yankaskas, a pulmonary disease specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, who was part of the 1994 surgical team that performed the transplant.

"I had a few days left. I was willing to try anything," Tim Choquette said.

It was a risk worth taking. Two weeks after the Dec. 7, 1994, surgery, UNC Hospitals shared Tim Choquette's success story with the world.

Since then, he has surpassed doctors' expectations that he would live only for another five years.

He's tripled that.

"It means the world just to know that I am here," he said. "In no way could I have imagined the 15 years that were to come. There's no way I could have dreamed it."

Today, Tim Choquette lives in Apex with his wife and two children and is the sales manager for a local cabinet company.

His entire family, including his brothers, recently celebrated the 15-year anniversary of the transplant with his medical team from UNC Hospitals.

"I'm amazed, and I'm really thankful that we have this chance," Aaron Choquette said.

It's a chance that Tim Choquette doesn't take lightly. His brothers, he says, are his heroes.

"What I've tried to do is thank them by living life the way it should be lived and enjoying it," he said.


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