At 22, Garrett Lisle knows all too well the value of time.
Living with cystic fibrosis, a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time, Lisle often must stay in the hospital for weeks at a stretch.
After losing nearly all of his possessions and rental home on Cudjoe Key to Hurricane Irma, the Category 4 storm that struck the Lower Keys Sept. 10, Lisle went against his doctors’ advice of returning home in the immediate aftermath to help clear debris that coated the roads and lots.
“It was something I had to do,” Lisle said outside his friend’s Cudjoe home where he has been staying since the storm. “I had to go back to help.”
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The dust and humidity hurt his health, and in the past few months, he has been in the hospital for treatment several times.
Soft-spoken and Southern enough — he’s from Columbus, Georgia, originally — to call a visitor “ma’am” at every turn, Lisle speaks volumes in short sentences.
“I’m doing all right,” he says when asked about his health. “But I also just got out of the hospital two weeks ago.”
‘Garrett will soon need to use oxygen on a daily basis and will need a oxygen concentrator and we recommend an Inogen oxygen concentrator. He also needs a battery operated EFlow nebulizer which he uses daily,’ according to the hospital’s nomination form.
Lisle, who works part time on a charter boat, reluctantly asked for some financial help this holiday season through Herald Charities’ Wish Book, having been nominated by the University of Miami Pulmonary department.
“When asked what he needed after the flood he remained humble and said he didn’t want to ask as other need more than him, but he does need it and we love that he is always thinking of others first,” the hospital staff wrote in their nomination of Lisle for Wish Book.
In person, Lisle is even more reluctant.
“I’m not a materialistic person,” he said. “All my clothes shopping is done at the tackle store.”
Lisle moved to the Keys in 2013 with his grandfather, who had lived here in the 1970s and it’s where his mother was born.
“Came down on vacation and never left,” he said, quoting the old Keys moving story. “I don’t like being in a big city. It’s really nice and calm down here and it really helps with my condition, how easy going it is for sure. And the salt air.”
The oldest of three, Lisle was separated from his parents when he was 14 and bounced around different relatives. He leaves it at that. He finished high school in La Vergne, Tennessee, but longed to be close to the ocean. For a time, he lived in Panama City before moving to Cudjoe.
“Even with all the rebuilding,” Lisle says while standing behind his temporary home on a small canal, “it’s still a beautiful place. This is where the eye hit, this island right here I lived right across the street. Four hundred units got destroyed.”
Now a first mate on the “Seas the Day” charter owned by Conrad Ross, who is providing Lisle a temporary home these days, Lisle says he is living his dream in the Florida Keys.
“I love to fish,” he says about the job he’s held for three years. “Not many jobs down here work with you if you have difficulty.”
Due to his CF, some days Lisle isn’t physically able to work the boat.
“The older you get, the worse it gets,” he says of CF. “I’ve been going to Miami for it for five years now. I found them on a website.”
Lisle says he explains his condition to others as living nonstop with the flu.
“All the time, I’m always raspy, always tired, always getting congested,” he said. “It’s like living in that constantly. It’s a degenerative disease. Once you get into your 20s…”
Lisle said money, or gift cards to grocery and department stores, would be his first choice in a gift so he can get his car running right and purchase food and household items. He lost a chest freezer, refrigerator and most furniture to four feet of flood waters. He has requested a couch.
All the time, I’m always raspy, always tired, always getting congested,” he said. “It’s like living in that constantly. It’s a degenerative disease. Once you get into your 20s…
But he also had medical needs.
“Garrett will soon need to use oxygen on a daily basis and will need a oxygen concentrator and we recommend an Inogen oxygen concentrator. He also needs a battery operated EFlow nebulizer which he uses daily,” according to the hospital’s nomination form.
Lisle has refused the lung transplant his doctors say he needs.
“Garrett wants to live his life to the fullest while he can now and said he does not want a transplant as he is afraid, so he wants to live as long as he can without it,” the hospital said.
Fishing dominates his life. When not fishing, he’s either resting or visiting the hospital in Miami for a break, he says.
“One lung does not really work,” Lisle said. “The other one, I have 27 percent lung capabilities. I get out of breath easy. I cough blood a lot. I get tired faster than others.”
Lisle doesn’t squander his time and fills his day with either charter boat work or sport fishing as his daily health will permit. He speaks with a wisdom beyond his 22 years. He cherishes life as if on borrowed time and simply wants more of it.
“I just like to enjoy the Keys, that’s the best thing I can say,” he said. “If I keep doing what I’m doing, I get to enjoy this place more.”
How to help
Wish Book is a Herald Charities project that is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call (305) 376-2906 or email [email protected] (The most requested items are laptops and tables for school, furniture, and accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.