Home Alone Overnight, for the First Time Post-transplant

Samuel Kirton avatar

by Samuel Kirton |

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Do you recall the first time you were allowed to stay home alone? Perhaps your parents had a date night. Maybe they had to work late. Whatever the reason, it was a sign you were considered responsible if you were trusted enough to be home alone.

You knew that you had to get it right. If you didn’t, who knows how long it would be before you’d be able to stay home alone? Everything you did would be scrutinized when your parents returned home. You had to ensure the stove was off and the lights in the room you were in were the only ones on — and you had just one chance to get it all right.

By way of background

When I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in January 2017, there was no sign of a pandemic looming on the horizon. By March 2020, when COVID-19 was definitely in the air, my case was presented to the transplant committee. I was approved, but deferred. I would continue with my native lungs for the time being.

This was also the beginning of my home isolation, thanks to the pandemic. My wife, Susan, and I share a mutual love of travel. We canceled upcoming trips thinking we could reschedule them during the summer at the latest. We were wrong on that estimate.

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On July 10, 2021, I had a bilateral lung transplant at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia. The pandemic continued. Now I’m approaching the one-year anniversary of my transplant, and the pandemic continues to be brought under control. There has been no travel for us.

It also means Susan and I have seen a lot of each other over the past two and a half years. It’s good that we like each other.

It’s important that I mention here that Susan has been my caregiver for the five and a half years since my diagnosis. She was our lifeline to the outside world and became responsible for grocery shopping and errands, in addition to attending all my medical appointments.

What we both missed was traveling. As I wasn’t cleared to travel post-transplant, we planned for future trips. Susan, as my primary caregiver, had willingly sacrificed so much. That’s what our caregivers do!

The present

I began this column by reminiscing about an adolescent rite of passage: staying home alone. This past week was my post-transplant version of that rite. Sure, I’d been home alone while Susan did our grocery shopping or ran errands. But I hadn’t spent a whole night alone.

I’ve had a relatively good experience post-transplant. There have been no exacerbations or events requiring hospitalization. Regardless, this separation would be a test for both Susan and me.

Susan was going to travel on her own, and I was allowed to be home alone. Susan had never seen Mount Rushmore, but she’d see it on her trip to Rapid City, South Dakota. My backup caregivers were alerted, though there was no plan for them to be called upon.


Susan left on Monday of last week. I remained home with our cat, Bella. Susan returned home Friday evening. Bella and I did well staying home alone.

Much like the test of my adolescence, I had to ensure everything was just right. I needed to demonstrate that I could be trusted to stay home alone. The trash was emptied. The dishwasher was run. Bella and I both had three meals a day. There were no obvious signs of chaos.

This was an important milestone for both of us. Susan had been at my side pre-transplant watching my IPF progress. She sat in the hospital waiting room during my transplant, knowing that she might leave that room a widow. Her heart leapt at the sight of the surgeon who told her everything had gone well. She walked with me every step of my recovery. I couldn’t have done as well as I did without her.

Susan has sacrificed so much over the past five and a half years, so I encouraged her to take this trip. I assured her that both Bella and I would be OK. I know that one day we’ll again travel together to distant places and learn new things. For now, I couldn’t be happier to see her check this off her bucket list. Both Susan and I want to ensure we continue to make every breath count.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Colin O Driscoll avatar

Colin O Driscoll

I couldn't agree more. I became a COVID hermit, and my family suffered the burden of only the house for necessities. I was recently given permission for short trips. It's made such a difference.

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton


Thanks for reading my column and your perspective. I hope even the short trips will allow you and your family to enjoy life a bit more. It is a great way to make every breath count.

Sam ...

Karen Carns avatar

Karen Carns

Great story Sam and as I said before, it is good that both you and Susan realize that the caregiver has needs also. Glad all worked out well and travel was successful for Susan. What a great idea and hope more will take the opportunity to invest in time away is well spent!!!

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Thanks for reading the column this week and your comments. It did work out well for both of us. You and Jim have experienced this journey twice so your experience as a caregiver is rich with lived experience.

Sam ...

Lydia avatar


Great article. I recently had my home alone experience in May; 3 days on my own. These things I previously took for granted are welcomed gifts.

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton


Thanks for reading my column. This was a great experience for both of us. I think Susan and I were both a bit anxious but we crossed this event off the list and gave it a five-star review for the experience.

Sam ...


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