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Family faces huge medical bill, hopes for help from others
Rick Downs
Rick Downs is on a waiting list for a lung transplant. If he gets one, his family expects to owe about $100,000. - photo by Photo provided.

Rick Downs needs your help now.

Have you ever thought about seeing the morning sunrise, playing with your child and listening to their laugh, walking along holding the hand of a loved one, enjoying a birthday dinner with family?

What if something happened where you could no longer enjoy these things? You can’t walk, talk, eat, hear or even hardly breathe. They are precious gifts that we constantly take for granted until we can no longer do them.

Have you ever thought about breathing through a straw? Not a regular straw but a small one, like one used to stir your coffee with. If you try it, you will know how Rick Downs feels every day now.

Rick was born 59 years ago, at Fort Stewart to Jimmie and Betty Downs. He was an active kid who loved to work and play sports. Baseball, football, motorcycles and old cars were among his favorite things and still are. After graduating from Bradwell Institute in 1976 he went into the Air Force. After leaving the Air Force, he went to work with Coastal Utilities which is now Centurylink. He has worked there for over 36 years.

Unfortunately he had to stop working in October because he could no longer do his job.

Thinking that the work load was just too much and he need to exercise more or that he was just getting old, he went to a doctor. He never thought the doctor would send him to a pulmonologist for further evaluation. Rick was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in late October.

To put it simply, his lungs are turning to leather. The rest of his body is healthy, but his lungs are revolting. There is no cure and it is not known how any one person gets it.

Actually there is one cure — a lung transplant. Rick must have a lung transplant or he cannot live.

He had been having symptoms, chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, weight loss and a persistent cough that haunt him every day for the past year until he went to the doctor. He is to the point of having to use oxygen for most of the day. Simply going to the kitchen to get a glass of tea or even getting dressed in the morning are exhausting ordeals now. A shower can send him into a horrible coughing spell. His strength is no longer there for him to go for a walk, work in the yard or play with his grandson.

Our family no longer talks about building a porch on the house, what to plant in the vegetable garden, going to a NASCAR race or going to Callaway Gardens to see the azaleas this spring.

We talk about ordering oxygen. How much is the medicine going to cost? Making ends meet. And what’s going to happen to me, if he doesn’t make it.

We stay positive though. We have too. Rick loves to talk about his back roads racing, mudbogging with friends and vacations at the lake with his family. I told Rick I wasn’t sure how to end the story and he said he didn’t know what to tell me because we don’t know what the ending will be.

Rick is now on the waiting list for a lung transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. The cost of this transplant, if we are fortunate enough for one, will be approximately $100,000 beyond the cost of insurance coverage. If you would like to help, please mail a donation to a fund at the following bank:

The Heritage Bank
Rick Downs Lung Transplant Fund
P.O. Box 1009 Hinesville, GA 31310

Please keep Rick in your prayers and also become an organ donor, if you are not one already. One organ donor can help up to 60 people. Thank you for your prayers and help.

Joann Downs
Rick Downs wife

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