Neighbors step up to help Camano Island man who needs double-lung transplant

CAMANO ISLAND — When she found out that her next-door neighbor Joe Gibson was on the short list for a double-lung transplant, Rinda Andrews jumped into action, swiftly organizing a community fundraiser.

“I know how much a transplant costs,” Andrews said. “I’m a nurse!”

Gibson, 60, trails his oxygen machine across the family room floor. Alongside his desk are two guitars and some sheet music he would like to record when he can sing again.

All he needs are those new lungs.

“I am trying to stay positive,” Gibson said. “I have one CD, and I want to cut another album.”

Andrews wants to make that happen. “It’s in her blood to help,” said Rinda’s husband, Chuck Andrews.

Joe and his wife, Vicki Gibson, moved into the Andrews’ neighborhood five years ago and they’ve been like family ever since. The couples share laughs, house projects and any excuse for a potluck.

“Vicki and Joe would do anything for us, too,” Rinda Andrews said.

Chuck Andrews often drives Gibson to a support group at the University of Washington Medical Center. People in the group talk about life, death and waiting for someone else’s organs to be available.

“It took Joe awhile to come around and be mentally and emotionally ready for the transplant,” Rinda Andrews said.

“He is such a good guy.”

Chuck Andrews doesn’t mind the drive to Seattle. He and Joe Gibson are buddies. They share a love of motorcycles and other guy stuff.

In 2005, Joe Gibson found he just couldn’t breathe. As long-haul truck driver, he kept his 6-foot-2-inch frame in shape maintaining the truck and handling his loads, but it became tough even just to go to work.

Then Gibson was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease. As a young man working construction, Gibson had lived in an apartment above a dry cleaner, and, though he smoked for many years, doctors believe the chemicals he inhaled played a part in his disease.

Since oxygen is not easily absorbed into his body, it takes tremendous effort for Gibson to do much of anything now.

He and his wife needed to live at a lower elevation than their place in Boise, Idaho. Having visited Snohomish and Island counties on their motorcycles, the Gibsons decided Camano Island was the place to retire and wait for the transplant.

Vicki Gibson works at Macy’s in Burlington. She occasionally depends on Rinda Andrews to make sure Joe has supper. Vicki has a hard time fathoming the energy Rinda has invested in the fundraiser, which is set for Sunday evening at the Camano Community Center.

After all, Rinda, 65, is still an on-call nurse at the Providence Pavilion for Women and Children in Everett and a steady volunteer at the Safe Harbor Free Clinic in Stanwood.

To get ready for the fundraiser, Rinda Andrews enlisted the help of her grandson Erik Linder, of Lake Stevens, and his ballroom dancing partner, Rickie Taylor, of Edmonds.

The 11-year-olds are four-time championship dancers who have appeared on TV shows such as “Dancing with the Stars,” “Oprah” and “America’s Got Talent.”

She also has a commitment from her 87-year-old mother, Lanore White, of Marysville, to make hundreds of cookies for the event and the organizational help of another couple in their neighborhood, Phil and Terry Lawson.

“Unless I get the call for the transplant, I will be there,” Joe Gibson said. “It’s going to be a great evening.”

The transplant surgery could cost nearly a half-million dollars and will keep him in the hospital for a month. Then he’ll have to rent an apartment in Seattle for a couple of months to be near the UW Medical Center for outpatient treatment.

“All of this has placed a great deal of stress on the Gibsons,” Rinda Andrews said. “There are many hardships yet to come.”

Joe Gibson knows this, but he clings to his positive outlook. And, of course, he and his wife can count on their neighbors.

“Rinda and Chuck are a good support to us,” he said. “They are the best neighbors in the world, 24/7.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Fancy footwork

“Dancing with the Champs: A benefit evening for the Joe Gibson lung transplant fund” is set for 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Camano Community Center, 606 Arrowhead Road. The evening features performances by championship ballroom dancers Rickie Taylor and Erik Linder. Refreshments and open dancing are planned. Tickets are $15 or $5 for children. Family packages are available by calling 360-387-3695.

To hear Gibson’s album “What Color is the Wind?” tune to KSER (90.7 FM) radio at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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