Quadruple Organ Transplant Recipient Climbs Detroit Tower to Raise Awareness for Lung Disease

Michigan man Kyle Bailey knows firsthand what it feels like to struggle to breathe. He was born with cystic fibrosis and received a double lung transplant at just 26 years old. Now, after four organ transplants – two lungs, one liver and one kidney – he will climb Ally Detroit Center, the second tallest building in Michigan, to raise awareness for lung disease.

Bailey was born with cystic fibrosis, an inherited disease that causes thickened mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, this mucus blocks the airways, causing lung damage and making it hard to breathe. However, Bailey never let the disease define him. He was active at a child, even with just 55% lung capacity. Then when Bailey was in his early 20s, his lung capacity dramatically declined.

“I went from a guy that had everything, to basically having to stop life. I spent most of summer of 2010 in the hospital. I was put on the lung transplant list and told to expect a three-year wait,” said Bailey. “I waited from September 2010 to June 2011. It got so bad that I was basically barely breathing. Sometimes I couldn’t even get out of bed. Most days, I was lucky if I could shower and sit in a chair.”

On June 20, 2011, Bailey got the call that he was waiting for. The doctors at the University of Michigan had donor lungs for him and the next morning he received a double lung transplant.

“The first thing I noticed after surgery is that my fingers were pink, not blue,” said Bailey. “By day three, I went to a normal room. I felt unstoppable. I went back to normal life and thrived. The donor lungs have been a blessing.”

Following his double lung transplant and recovery, Bailey felt the need to give back.

“In August 2012, I ran from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, which was 204 miles in five days to raise awareness about organ donation,” he said.

Then in 2015, Bailey’s health began to decline due to years of strong medications to treat the cystic fibrosis. He had cirrhosis of the liver and his kidneys were failing. By December 2015, he thought that it would be his last Christmas. In January, he went to the hospital and was put in the intensive care unit. At that time, he was added to the transplant list.
On Feb. 24, 2016, Bailey went in for a liver transplant and a kidney transplant. For Bailey, this recovery was much more challenging.

“I got down to 71 pounds, had to relearn how to walk and eat. It took me about four months to get my weight back, and then I got back into exercising,” he said.

After he recovered, Bailey again wanted to give back and raise awareness about the importance of being an organ donor.

“Starting on April 27, 2018, I biked through seven states, for a total of 1,440 in 19 days to promote organ donation,” said Bailey. “I had help from a man, who was also an organ donation recipient, who drove a motorhome for me. I stopped and spoke at hospitals along the way. People loved the story.”

On March 1, Bailey will continue his athletic feats to raise awareness for organ donation and lung disease. He will climb Ally Detroit Center for the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb in Downtown Detroit.

“I want to do the stair climb because I know what it is like to not be able to breathe,” said Bailey.  “I have been blessed by organ donation, so I’ll do the biggest and craziest stunts to promote organ donation and awareness for lung disease.”

The Fight For Air Climb invites individuals, families, groups of friends, corporate teams and first responders to race up the stairs of one of two buildings in downtown Detroit – Ally Detroit Center and One Woodward. Firefighters and first responders will climb up and down One Woodward (a total of 55 floors and 1,108 stairs), and elite climbers and all other participants will climb up and down Ally Detroit Center (a total of 83 floors, 1,768 steps).

To learn more about the Fight For Air Climb at Downtown Detroit, happening on March 1, visit ClimbDetroit.org.

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