Dear Santa,

All we want for Christmas is to have a new set of lungs delivered to my grandpa Richard Lupton at USC hospital he has been very sick and in the hospital a lot. Can you help us. Also on the way to my Grandmas house pick him up and bring him to there house so he is home for Christmas this is his favorite holiday and he will be so mad if he is not home.

Love his Grandchildren,
Kaitlin, Kody Zack and Sidney

Sometimes Santa Claus comes through.

Veteran Hesperia Recreation and Park District board member Richard Lupton received a new lung, a week before Christmas (and four days before the letter written by his grandchildren appeared in the December 23 issue of the Hesperia Star).

A retired member of the Hesperia Fire Department, Lupton, 62, has served on the Hesperia Recreation and Park Board since 1994.

Remarkably, he spent only a scant seven days on the lung transplant list before doctors at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center gave him a healthy lung. He had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive, normally non-reversible restriction of air into the lungs.

"He's had it for about two and a half years, but [on] September 16, he went into end stages," Lupton's daughter Shawna Irish said Tuesday. "That meant there was nothing else they could do for him, other than a lung transplant."

Lupton, who remained active in Hesperia after being diagnosed with COPD, became a familiar sight hooked up to oxygen wherever he went.

"He was breathing so hard to get air that everything he ate, the breathing ate [the calories] right up. He wasn't getting any nutrition to his body, either, just trying to breathe and eat, breathe and eat."

A week before being put on the transplant list, the doctors at USC were blunt: Lupton would not live long without a new lung.

But fortunately for him, lung transplant recipients over the age of 12 are ranked based on their likelihood of living another year without a transplant, probability of surviving a transplant and the expected length of life after receiving a new lung.

Lupton was ranked #45 in the nation on the lung transplant list, after months of testing to determine his eligibility.

"We were just kind of playing a waiting game, I guess," Irish said. "Last Thursday, after the snowstorm, we got a call about 4:30. They told my mom 'we've got a lung flying in, get down here as soon as I can.'"

Single-lung transplants typically come from brain-dead donors, but Lupton's family doesn't know anything about the donor.

"They just told us it was a healthy viable left lung. And if you're going to get one lung transplanted, that's the one, because it's got three lobes, and you can live on that one forever."

The helicopter arrived at 10 p.m. By 2:30 a.m. Friday morning, Lupton was out of surgery and in the intensive care unit. Doctors told the family the new lung has given him back 20 years of life.

Since then, Lupton has been involved in physical therapy and rehabilitation. He's able to get out of bed and "feels really good," he said.

"He can do whatever he feels he can do," Irish said.

And while Lupton's grandchildren didn't get everything they wanted from Santa -- their grandfather will not be back in Hesperia in time for Christmas -- a dozen relatives will bring Christmas to him on Thursday.

"They'll just have to be accommodating," Irish said. "USC has been wonderful, the staff has been wonderful, the transplant staff has been wonderful."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.