Christopher M. Comstock, whose quest as a boy for a double-lung transplant — and then his recovery — captivated a community, died Tuesday in the Cleveland Clinic. He was 28.
Mr. Comstock learned this spring that he had Stage 4 colon cancer. Doctors cautioned that his condition was treatable, not curable, but he eagerly underwent chemotherapy. He even took a break from his hospital stay to hold a July 4 fireworks-watching party at his downtown Toledo apartment.
“Chris has always been a fighter,” his mother, Kathy Comstock, said. “He’s always said from day one when he went through the transplant as a little-bitty boy, ‘If I have one day to live, fight for me.’
“He was very positive and kept thinking about the next thing he wanted to do,” his mother said.
“It made him sad and scared him, but part of him believed, just because bad things have happened to him in the past 20 years, and he survived. He’d been on his deathbed many times, and he got back up to go to a baseball game.”
Mr. Comstock was a graduate of Bedford High School and received a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Siena Heights University in Adrian, where he played outfield on the college baseball team.
He later received a certificate in broadcasting from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts, Southfield, Mich., and with his interest in sports, hoped to do game commentary and play-by-play.
He worked in the team sports area of Dick’s Sporting Goods at Westfield Franklin Park mall, and aspired to move into management.
He was born April 18, 1985, to Kathleen and Ronald Comstock and grew up in Temperance. He was a healthy 6-year-old on Christmas Day, 1991, when he took a sulfa-based drug prescribed for bronchitis. In reaction, his skin blistered, and he was hospitalized for a month.
His outward symptoms cleared, and physicians suspected asthma when he began to run out of breath easily. Only later was his breathing trouble traced to the drug reaction, his mother said.
In mid-1992, doctors prescribed a double-lung transplant as the boy's only chance at survival. By August, he and his mother were at an apartment near St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where the transplant was to take place, and waited.
They endured a false alarm in May, 1993, which in the moment was fine with Chris.
“I had bowling that night and bingo the next day,” Chris told The Blade then. “Besides, I won two dollars in bingo.”
Then on a Saturday about a month later, a pair of lungs became available. Two weeks after the transplant, the boy was released from the hospital, besting that facility’s previous short-stay record for a child transplant patient.
He went to physical therapy and was active and happy as he dealt with setbacks — an allergic reaction to medication and, later, an infection that developed around his incision.
He returned home in mid-November, greeted by a large brontosaurus cut-out in front.
The community rallied to help defray the family's medical expenses, raising nearly $70,000 through a 26-hour telethon and benefit events held over the year that young Comstock was in St. Louis.
The boy’s checkups in St. Louis grew less frequent over time, although drugs he took to prevent his body from rejecting the donor lungs also suppressed his immune system and made him susceptible to illnesses others fought off, his mother said.
He followed the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings and the University of Michigan Wolverines. He played volleyball in Temperance and indoor soccer in Maumee.
He disliked conflict, and when others argued or were angry for no reason, “he tried to smooth it over,” his mother said.
“He wanted everything to be cool and smooth and wanted everyone to get along — maybe because of the troubles. He knew what was important.”
Surviving are his parents, Kathleen and Ronald Comstock; sisters, Andrea and Jaclyn Comstock, and grandparents, John and Regina Meszaros.
Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday in Urbanski’s Bedford Funeral Chapel, Temperance, with a Celebration of Life service there at 6 p.m. Funeral services will start at 11 a.m. Saturday in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Temperance, where he was a member. Visitation in the church is to begin at 10 a.m.
The family suggests tributes through the Bedford Community Foundation to Bedford Heart of Hope, which pays medical expenses for children with catastrophic illnesses in Bedford Township.
Contact Mark Zaborney at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6182.
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