SALT LAKE CITY -- Ralph and Carol Andersen spent Thursday and Friday at the University of Utah Medical Center, waiting for any tidbit of news on how their son's double lung transplant was progressing.
It was a time the West Point couple had hoped for, but they also knew of the sacrifice another family had made so their son, James, 24, could have another chance to live.
James was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 8 months old. He was put on the lung transplant list at the medical center in February.
James was taken into surgery at 8 a.m. Thursday. The surgery lasted almost 12 hours.
"James was apprehensive at first, but then as they wheeled him in, he was excited," Carol said. "He's been on oxygen 24/7 for the past year."
The 24 hours after the surgery were the most critical, said the Andersens.
"My feelings today have run from nervous to jubilation to a bit of fear," Ralph, a Bonneville High School teacher, said Thursday.
The Andersens' son, Rex, died Nov. 9, 2010, from complications of cystic fibrosis. Rex was 20 and had been on a waiting list for a double lung and liver transplant.
Rex's transplant was to happen at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University Medical School in St. Louis.
"We were so close to having (Rex's) transplant done," Ralph said. "We had plane tickets bought for Missouri for that Sunday, but Rex passed away on Tuesday."
Carol said her heart goes out to the family who has given their first-born son another chance.
"We know someone else is going through a lot of grief right now, as we're going through a lot of hope," Carol said Thursday, her voice choked with tears.
"We're scared and excited at the same time. I've been thinking a lot today about the (donor) family."
Since his youngest brother's death, James has had nine other friends die from complications of cystic fibrosis. All were in their early 20s and had become friends with James during his stays at Primary Children's Medical Center and the University of Utah, both in Salt Lake City.
Getting on a list for a lung transplant is not easy, Ralph said.
James' health was deteriorating about the same time his brother died. His visits to the hospital became more frequent, Ralph said. It got so James was at the hospital for two weeks, home for one to two weeks and then back at the hospital.
"We figured out James had been at the hospital for 6 1/2 months total in the past year," Ralph said.
The life expectancy of someone with CF at the time when James and Rex were born was the early 20s, Ralph said. Someone born today and diagnosed with CF can expect to live into their 30s.
The U of U originally turned down James for a lung transplant, Ralph said. The family's health insurance company got involved and two other hospitals in the country had agreed to put James on their list. Then a doctor from the U of U called the Andersens, saying he would do what he could to get James on the list.
James was put on the list in February. A month ago, news came that a set of lungs was available, but moments before the surgery was to begin, doctors found something wrong with the donor lungs.
The same thing happened just two days before Thursday's surgery.
"We've had two dry runs, so we're ready," Ralph said.
Ralph and Carol kept family and friends updated throughout the day on how James was doing via text group lists and Facebook.
They said the support they have received the past two years from neighbors and through Ralph's work has been overwhelming.
Their health insurance is paying 100 percent of the cost of James' transplant surgery, but the aftercare costs are not all covered. Family and friends have sponsored events to raise funds to cover the medication needed so James does not reject his new lungs, Ralph said. That medication runs a couple thousand dollars a month.
Anyone who wants to donate can do so by going to the Children's Organ Transplant Association website at www.cota.org, where an account has been set up for James.