Travis' Double Lung Transplant Fund

When Travis woke up with a sore throat last December, he had no idea it would be the beginning of a life threatening condition. By mid-January, after weeks of coughing and feeling ill, Travis started to feel worse and decided to heed Emily’s advice and made an appointment with his doctor.

Travis was tested for COPD and asthma with negative results for each. After a week of antibiotics and steroids, he was still getting worse. This time the doctor took x-rays and said he had walking pneumonia and that Travis needed to take another antibiotic and rest. A week later, Travis was still declining, losing weight, and having trouble catching his breath. On Valentine’s Day, my sister, Emily, took Travis to the emergency room. It was time for some answers.

At the ER, the doctor ordered a high contrast CT scan and x-rays and said it looked like Interstitial Lung Disease. Travis was given an IV dose of steroids, more antibiotics, and told to see a pulmonologist. Three days later, his 40th birthday, Travis was scheduled for surgery to have a lung biopsy done. The results pointed to Interstitial Lung Disease again.

What is Interstitial Lung Disease?
We were all wondering the same thing.

Interstitial Lung Disease is a term used to describe many disorders that cause scarring on the lung tissue. Exposure to hazardous materials, autoimmune disorders, and sometimes unknown factors cause this disease and damage to the lungs. Eventually, the scarring affects your ability to breathe which causes a decrease in oxygen in your bloodstream. This is why Travis continued to be increasingly out of breath. He literally was not getting enough oxygen.

At this point Travis was referred to the MUSC Lung Transplant Clinic in Charleston for transplant evaluation. A double lung transplant. I think that is when everything started to get real for everyone. This was serious and it was not going away. More so, the MUSC appointment was three months out. I feel like everyone was holding their breath and hoping and praying the diagnosis would be different. Travis was prescribed oxygen around the clock while he waited to see the new team of doctors.

By the grace of God, Travis’ appointment with the MUSC Lung Transplant Unit got moved up sooner. My maternal grandparents live in North Charleston, so Emily and Travis have stayed with them off and on during their visits to MUSC.

There has been a tremendous amount of waiting and unknowns during this journey. I have seen Travis with a smile on his face and a ‘do-what-I-gotta-do’ attitude. It would be so easy to fall into despair and want to give up, but he keeps going…keeps looking up. My sister has remained steadfast and trusting in God even though none of this makes any sense. The entire Gibson family needs your prayer and support!

After pulmonary function tests, another type of biopsy, and another month of waiting, Em and Travis headed back to MUSC for test results. The doctors told them Travis had Cryptogenic Organizing Pneumonia… one of those diseases that falls into the Interstitial Lung Disease category. The disease had caused severe damage to both of Travis’ lungs. He was given a very high dose of steroids, a strong antibiotic, an immunosuppressant and told it would take at least three months of the medications to see any improvement if there was going to be improvement at all. After more waiting and pulmonary function tests, no improvement was seen. The doctors told Travis to start pulmonary rehab that included weight loss and strength training. If Travis does need the transplant, he will not be able to move his arms for eight weeks after surgery in order to give his sternum time to heal. Some patients have ended up having to have metal plates put in their chest as a result of arm use too soon after surgery.  

Travis and Emily headed back to Charleston at the very end of May for a week of lung transplant testing and evaluation. An entire week. I spoke with my sister a couple times during this week for updates and I was exhausted just listening to all the plethora of tests Travis had to undergo each day. I know it completely wore him out.

Here is a note from his persective:

I am typing this after the fifth day of transplant evaluation. My body and mind have been put through the ringer over the last five days. Medicine is not working, so a lung transplant is the only option. I knew I should not have asked the following question because most likely the answer would not be good, but I needed to know. “How long can I live if I do not get new lungs?” The response “less than a year.” At this point, I just wanted to break down and cry. Who wants to think about their wife being a widow and their three glorious children growing up without a father? I took a second to close my eyes and imagine walking my daughters down the aisle on their wedding days and playing baseball with my son. Life changed at that moment. I knew in the back of my mind that this disease was bad, but did not honestly think it could kill me while only 41 years old. So here I sit explaining the last seven months of this journey hoping and praying we are able to come up with the necessary funds in order to be put on the national transplant registry.

For three months after the transplant Travis will have to live within ten minutes of MUSC for continuing care and as a precaution in the event that a complication develops. That is three months of not working, three months of regular home and life expenses, and three months of an additional apartment or house rental and expenses. Emily and Travis have to have $15,000 available just to be able to be put on the transplant list. Lung matches do not typically take very long since they are matched based on height and blood type, so fundraising needs to happen fast.

In addition to the $15,000 upfront, there will be post transplant medication and follow-up procedures. Travis will need to take 30 pills each day to make sure his body does not reject the new lungs. The first year after a double lung transplant is crucial. He must be a compliant patient and focus on getting well. Emily will be his caregiver and have to do pretty much everything for him especially in those first eight weeks when arm movement is restricted. This entire ordeal is stressful for the whole family. They will all need help and support in every way. Help me alleviate the financial strain so Travis can get his new lungs as soon as possible.

  • Joanne & Lou Madeira 
    • $300 
    • 50 mos
  • Jennifer Anne Hurst 
    • $100 
    • 50 mos
  • Alex Hobbs 
    • $50 
    • 52 mos
  • John and Ruth Prohaska 
    • $50 
    • 53 mos
  • Linda Dailey 
    • $50 
    • 53 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Sarah May Smith 
Evans, GA
Emily Mills Gibson