Waiting to breathe freely

  • Daniel Kicklighter prepares for a second double-lung transplant in Gainesville. The 34-year-old had a double-lung transplant in 2015.
    Daniel Kicklighter prepares for a second double-lung transplant in Gainesville. The 34-year-old had a double-lung transplant in 2015.

Daniel Kicklighter just wants to breathe freely again. 

The 34-year-old awaits his second double-lung transplant in Gainesville. 

Born with cystic fibrosis, Kicklighter received two new lungs in 2015. 

His body has since rejected the second set. He is in the process of preparing to be put on a wait list, pending any unforeseeable circumstances. 

Mom Ann Rose of Callahan recalled how he responded after his initial transplant surgery.

“He was able to, you know, function like you and I for the first time,” she said. “He could actually breathe. What we take for granted every day – that was something he hadn’t experienced his entire life.” 

Cystic fibrosis is incurable and causes people to have mucous in their lungs that affects their ability to breathe property. It can also lead to other medical issues. Kicklighter has also had bowel problems since birth. 

He receives disability, which is only enough to cover his apartment rental fees, and has a Medicaid Share Plan that does not cover everything. Kicklighter has to pay $264 per month for oxygen and at least $96 per month for a feeding tube to supplement his regular diet so that he can gain weight. He is 5-foot-9 and weighs 100 pounds. 

Family and friends have established a fundraiser to assist with medical expenses.

“They just kind of surprised me with the whole thing,” Kicklighter said via telephone Aug. 26. “My spirits are up and it’s all because of my support system, having friends and family around me. It’s very hard to do this alone and to keep a good attitude.” 

If he is matched with new lungs, the surgery costs thousands of dollars, according to Rose.

“We’re doing the best we can,” she said. “It’s time to reach out and ask the community. Please help. We’re between a rock and hard place now. He didn’t do anything for these beautiful lungs to be rejected. He didn’t do anything the first time. And, you know, isn’t that what the world’s about? About caring for other people and helping them when they’re down? He is definitely down.” 

Despite the challenges, Rose said his son is willing to face another surgery. He has always fought the odds, as he wasn’t expected to live past the age of 5. 

“I’m actually amazed that he’s found it in himself to try again,” she said. “You’d think he’d be so tired.” 

When Kicklighter was well, he did small woodworking projects to earn extra money. Now he’s too weak to support himself. He doesn’t let his health issues stop him from staying upbeat about the future. 

“He’ll find a reason to laugh every day,” Rose said. “He’s got a great sense of humor. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t just love him when they first meet him.” 

To donate toward Kicklighter’s medical expenses, visit https://givebutter.com/JustBreathe/marymiller.