Kyle Bailey shows off his riding partner for the next month.
Port Huron resident Kyle Bailey is about to make the ride of his life, biking from Ann Arbor to Orlando all in the name of organ donation awareness.
Bailey, 33, is a quadruple transplant recipient and will begin his big ride at 10 a.m. April 27.
If it weren't for organ donors, Bailey might not be in a position to make this trek.
Not too long ago, he wouldn’t have been healthy enough to take this journey. Bailey was born with cystic fibrosis. He was born in Florida, but moved to Port Huron in kindergarten because of family in the area and better medical care in the Detroit area. After battled lung infections and other cystic fibrosis related problems, Bailey eventually went off to college and lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
“I was 25, in the middle of school and kind of doing my own thing, living on my own with my girlfriend, and I got too sick. My heart was working too hard, and I needed to go on oxygen,” Bailey says.
In May 2010, he was down to less than 30 percent lung function, and his doctor recommended a return to Michigan for thePort Huron resident Kyle Bailey is taking a big ride to boost organ donation awareness transplant. He spent most of the summer at the University of Michigan hospital, and worked his way on to the transplant list in September. With a rare blood type, small stature, and the typical wait for lungs being three years, Bailey's odds of receiving donor lung were not in his favor. However, he "only" had to wait nine months before he was matched and received a double lung transplant on June 21, 2011.
Though he thrived with the transplant, Bailey developed cirrhosis of the liver because of his lifetime of medication, and his kidneys were also affected.
“I spent the last week of January 2016 in the hospital, and I honestly didn’t think I was coming out. I was deathly ill,” he says.
But on Feb. 24, 2016, he received a new liver and kidney. The transplants have inspired him to raise awareness about donation.
“There are 115,000 people today waiting for an organ, and I was on that list twice, so if I can get them that organ, I’m going to do every damn thing possible to do it,” Bailey says.
The 2003 Port Huron High School graduate is hoping the 16- to 18-day bike ride, called Re-cycle Life, will not only get people talking about organ donation, but encourage them to become organ donors.
Since his story is so unique with its multiple transplants, he thinks his perspective will give people a push in the right direction. Doing the bike ride will also show the amazing extent of organ donation benefits, as Bailey says he is now healthier than many people who have never had surgery.
In 2012, Bailey did a similar awareness project where he ran across Michigan. It was a huge success. Bailey says the month after, Michigan had a huge influx of new donors; usually, there are 1,000 to 5,000 per month at most, but in September 2012, there were 56,000.
When Bailey had his first transplant in 2010, 23 percent of Michiganders were signed up to donate. The state made a huge leap and is now ranked in the top 15 with more than 62 percent of automobile drivers registered.
However, there is still a long way to go. Twenty-two people a day die in the United States waiting for a transplant, according to Gift of Life. Bailey says people do not talk about organ donation enough, so there are myths and unfounded fears behind it.
"There are plenty of polls out there that show 90 percent of the country would be an organ donor, but only 54 percent are," he says.
He often talks with people who are scared doctors will not fight to save their lives if they have healthy organs, or that they are too old or sick to donate. The first is simply untrue, and Bailey suggests registering to donate and letting a doctor decide if you actually can. Donate Life America statistics show that one of every three donors is over 50 years old. Many parts of the body can be donated, from the ACL to bone marrow, if you go beyond organs and include tissues.
"I want everybody to be an organ donor. Even if you have cancer, I want you to be an organ donor. Let the doctors, at the time you pass, decide if you’re healthy enough to donate something. Even I am an organ donor!" he says.
He rolls off donation statistics faster than he would his name or address, sharing them and his own story in order to help get the message across--organ donation saves lives. Eventually, he hopes people will only have to wait a few weeks for a transplant instead of years.
"I get to experience life in ways that people never even think of, and to be on that list for five years and never get your chance; that hits me hard. It hits me hard when I see somebody on oxygen because I was on oxygen," he says.
You will be able to follow Bailey as he makes the 1,465 mile trek through Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. During the event, Bailey will be blogging daily and updating social media. He has also put out an open invitation for anyone who wants to join him for parts of the ride. This week, he is leaving to make sure his path is GPS-set and ready to be live tracked, so that the public will know his route beforehand.
He is getting police escorts through the major cities he passes through, many of which hold personal meaning to him. Ann Arbor is where he received his transplants. He used to live in Myrtle Beach, and will stop to see the Charleston doctor who referred him to Michigan. Florida is his home state, where they will be holding a parade for him in Jacksonville, and he is trying to convince Disneyworld to let him end the journey there.
Although the main focus is awareness, donations are needed for things like a motor home for Bailey to sleep in along the way, food, and equipment. His goal for Re-cycle Life is to gain 500,000 new organ donors and $100,000 through his Kyle Bailey Foundation to help five families with medical needs.
Bailey will be at a celebration at the Port Huron Elks Lodge 343, 3292 Beach Road from 2 to 6 p.m. April 7.
The biggest help for Bailey is the simplest gift of all: sign up to be an organ donor.
To sign up and become a donor visit Bailey's website: KyleBailey.org or check out his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Re-Cycle-LIFE-196980477508160/