Mike Kaster understands how fortunate he is to be alive, much less running.
After contracting COVID-19, the 60-year-old Carmel resident had a double-lung transplant and bypass on Sept. 7, 2021. Kaster went to an Indianapolis hospital July 18 and spent a little less than four weeks there before being transported to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was in its hospital facility for 77 days, making a total of 101 days in the hospitals. He went on life support Aug. 6, on his 38th wedding anniversary.
On April 9, Kaster successfully completed the 5K run in 46 minutes and 56 seconds April 8 as part of the Carmel Marathon. It marked a big step in a long journey.
“It all came as quite a shock, because before getting COVID I was never sick and always healthy,” Kaster said. “To learn that COVID did irreversible damage to my lungs and that it also spurred the coronary blockage was doubly surprising. The biggest thing that I feel fortunate about is that an organ donor unfortunately lost their life and donated their lungs so I could continue my life. Words cannot express how fortunate I feel for this gift.”
Dr. Matthew Henn, a cardiac surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said approximately 2,500 lung transplants are performed per year in the United States.
“Our center performed 73 last year, making us the sixth-busiest lung transplant center in the country,” Henn said. “Lung transplants for COVID-19 are rare and there have been roughly 200 total since the start of the pandemic. What is even more rare, and perhaps the only case ever, was Mr. Kaster undergoing the combination of coronary artery bypass at the same time as a double-lung transplant for COVID-19.
“Mr. Kaster has made a tremendous recovery and not all recover as fast as he has.”
During recovery, Kaster’s goals have been short term.
“In November, I could barely walk to the end of our driveway, so my goal was to walk a mile by the end of November,” he said. “Then it was to go 2 miles. Then my goal shifted to getting back to running, which I started doing in February. Then I set my sights on doing my first 5K since getting COVID last July. The Carmel Marathon’s 5K was good from a timing perspective and gave me something to shoot for.”
Kaster’s wife, Joan, and one of their daughters also contracted COVID-19 at the same time but had mild symptoms. Joan is a cancer survivor.
“Our reason for not yet being vaccinated last July is that we were waiting for Joan to be cleared to receive the vaccine by her oncologist,” Kaster said. “She is still immunosuppressed from the bone-marrow transplant she received a few years ago because of her battle against multiple myeloma.
“We were scheduled for her to see her doctor a week or so after we returned from our vacation last July, at which time we were both planning to start the vaccination process.”
Kaster, a 1980 Carmel High School graduate, has been working out at OrangeTheory Fitness since the end of December, going there with his wife about four to five times a week.
“It’s a great workout, and it has served as great therapy for my recovery,” he said. “They keep helping us to set goals and have us do challenges, which has helped me with my short-term goals.”
Kaster said he and his wife and some of their seven adult children had restarted a new habit of doing weekend running events back in 2018.
“We were doing this about three to four times a year, primarily doing 5Ks,” he said. “In 2020, I started adding in biking to my workouts, and during the pandemic I had increased my workout activity. In 2021, I did my first 10K during the 2021 Carmel Marathon weekend. Just prior to getting COVID in July, I was actually training for my first half-marathon in over 20 years.”
Kaster, who played football and wrestled at CHS, began running when he was in 20s.
Marathon record set
Steve Froeschle, from Davenport, Iowa, broke the Carmel Marathon men’s record by one minute by finishing with a time of 2:20:48.
“I probably didn’t adjust my plan as much as I should have with the weather,” Froeschle stated. “I wanted to hit 2:18 for an Olympic Trial qualifier. It worked out the first half but I had to just put my head down and get through the second half.”
Despite the windy conditions, Peighton Meske, Knoxville, Tenn., took nearly 20 minutes off her previous personal best time to win the women’s full marathon in 2:39:48.
Carmel Half Marathon winners were Raymond Magut, 1:04:22 in the men’s race and Mary Munanu, 1:12:42, in the women’s race. For more results, visit CarmelMarathon.com.