Determined Veteran Who Deserves All the Luck
If fortune were a person, it would look like former helicopter mechanic and Army medic, Alfred Pratt, who recently ran a 5K race after having a double lung transplant.
“I would have been gone in May 2021,” said Veteran Alfred Pratt.
Pratt’s story begins with being born with a rare genetic condition, Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome. The condition peaked in 2021, when his lungs were filled with cysts causing his lungs to collapse. He would not live without the transplant.
“Another couple of days and he might not have been here,” said Kathleen DeWeese, who has been part of Pratt’s support network for four years. “With all of the medical problems, I was there to make sure he made it through them without being alone,” DeWeese said.
Two days before his surgery Pratt was a Tampa VA patient awaiting a lung transplant. “When they finished my work-up, they listed me that Monday. By Wednesday, I was having the operation,” he said.
After the operation and during recovery, Pratt set goals for himself that were more than just getting back on his feet.
“I have always been athletic, not a big runner,” said Pratt.
“Running was the challenge I set for myself after I had surgery, laying in the hospital bed,” said Pratt. “I’m going to get out of this bed and I’m going to run this race,” he said.
Pratt had never run competitively before. While in the hospital after receiving new lungs he made a commitment to get well enough to run a race.
Pratt broke his big goal up into bite-size challenges.
“When I first had the surgery, I couldn’t walk two minutes. It became a challenge to walk out of hospital room. Then a challenge to walk to nurses’ station,” said Pratt.
With each small goal accomplished he extended his ability to the next. It took almost two years before Pratt could run a 5K and the road to running wasn’t always smooth.
“I had a lot of complications. I didn’t get out of the hospital until November 2021,” Pratt said.
“He had complications most people don’t have, but he came out of it anyway,” DeWeese said.
Pratt credits his family, support network and faith with helping him achieve his health and fitness goals.
“It was an emotional roller coaster, but it was Kathleen being there, that got me through it,” said Pratt.
“We’re fully behind what you do,” said Scott DeWeese, Kathleen DeWeese’s son.
Pratt’s daughter travelled from Pennsylvania to watch the race. Pratt says, when she came down to visit two years ago after the surgery, she took a photo and said, ‘you look like a frail old man.’ After the race she said, ‘now you look like the dad I remember.’ “She was there with us when we crossed the finished line,” said Pratt.
“I’m a religious man. I thank God for the doctors, hospitals, and I thank God for the donor’s family,” he said.
Pratt encourage others to achieve their goals by plugging away at them, and like he did, take one bite at a time.
“I’m 63 years old, and I still have all the aches and pains that a 63 year old has, but I realize I have life. You’ve got life, keep moving forward.”
“For people looking at facing the fear, believe that if you can get through it, you’ll be alright. I went from expecting to die in the hospital in 2021, to now,” he said.
“Emotionally the road is hard. Sometimes you’re up and then you’re down. There were a lot of times I was ready to quit. Kathleen kicked me in the butt, and didn’t let me quit,” said Pratt.
“He’s also a determined person, and he likes to be physically fit. He had a goal to get back to health,” said DeWeese.
“I run three times a week, work out at the gym and run for 30 minutes each time,” Pratt said.
What’s next on the path for Pratt? “I know I want to do some more 5Ks” he said. His ultimate goal is to finish a 5K in 40 minutes.
“Irish Eyes are Mile’ing” was Pratt’s first run and as luck would have it, he surpassed his goals.
“I achieved every goal I’d promised myself. First of all being able to run the race. I hoped to run it in under 50 minutes,” he said. He finished under the 50 minutes at 47:18.
“My other goal was not to come in last. I wasn’t the last one over the finished line.”
Pratt offers gratitude to Tampa VA’s Transplant Program. Dr. Arthur Andrews and Alicia Empson, APRN are his pulmonary transplant providers.
Dr. Steven Rakita is the Transplant Chairman and Chief of Surgery. Holly Vance, RN is the Transplant Coordinator.
“The best thing about this program is that it gives hope to Veterans in need, and it improves their quality of life,” said Vance.
The Program has managed nine transplants this year and a total of 31 in 2022.
For more on VA’s Transplant Program visit https://www.va.gov/health/services/transplant/.
Facebook link for his video is at: https://fb.watch/jkoDH3_S7-/