Lungs For Keri

Keri Hodge is an Olympia native, with her school years taking her from Boston Harbor Elementary through Olympia High School and finishing at the Evergreen State College. Her father, Bill Reynolds, is well known in our community from his many years as a building contractor, as is her father-in-law Allen Hodge. Keri’s husband, Heath Hodge, is a captain at the McLane Fire Department and his brother, Ty Hodge, is a firefighter at the Lacey Fire Department. With all these connections to the community, many have known or crossed paths with Keri or a member of her family over the years; what few have known is that Keri has been fighting a serious, chronic illness all of her life.

Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age 4, Keri has never let her disease define her.  Growing up she played sports, was actively involved in the school choir, and traveled abroad with family and friends. Even when faced with long hospital stays, or IV medications that kept her from her usual activities, she told only a few of her closest friends the real reason she was sick a lot. She never wanted to be “the girl with CF;” she just wanted to be a normal kid and be treated like one. Even through college and her early twenties, Keri’s determination remained, but slowly her CF worsened. “The day I tried to go snowboarding and realized that, no matter how determined I was, my lung function had decreased to the point where I just couldn’t – that was a hard day,” says Keri.

Professionally, Keri worked as a Pilates instructor and an Adoption Counselor at an animal rescue facility. Although she enjoyed both career paths, they were short-lived, as she was having to devote more and more of her time to managing her CF: dealing with 2-3 flare-ups a year, each of which required 2-4 weeks of IV antibiotics and sick-leave for weeks at a time. Neither job was able to accommodate this kind of frequent absence.

Though these experiences were frustrating and it would have been easy to feel defeated, Keri had the support and encouragement of her then boyfriend, now husband, Heath Hodge. Every time CF would knock her down he’d tell her to get back up and push back. In 2006 the high school sweethearts were finally married on Orcas Island in such a wonderful and purely joyful celebration that even many years later it is frequently remarked upon as what a great time was had by all.

Through the years, Keri has changed the lives of all those around her. Changed them for the better. Ask anyone who knows her and they will tell you that Keri lives life to the fullest in the face of great adversity. Keri brings laughter and warmth to every day, even when her body fails her. Her love of life is so infectious that it’s impossible not to admire her strength and determination in the face of physical challenges that many of us will never know.

Refusing to let her challenges keep her from experiencing all of life’s richness, Keri and Heath were blessed with the birth of their son, Cooper, in September of 2008. From that moment on and to this day, Keri’s now 7 year old son is her whole world, and she is his. Motherhood has proven to be her greatest calling. Although Keri is unable to play sports, dance, or sing in choirs like she once did, she never let these setbacks keep her from being a hands-on mom. However, now that Keri is dependent on oxygen, with lungs functioning at only 24%, she’s had to take a big  step back from all the activities she and Cooper so enjoyed together: creating art projects of all kinds, taking walks on the beach and in the woods, volunteering in his classroom, bug hunting, exploring nature, and drawing pictures every day. “That is the hardest part of all this,” says Keri. “Being held back from being the mom I so loved being.”

Keri received her lung transplant in September 2017 and has had a smooth recovery from the surgery. She is thrilled to be back home and returning to normal life.