From Issue 103

MONTROSE— Like a cat, it might seem like Stony Keithley of Montrose has lived nine lives—or more. The journey has taken him to places others might not see or experience—but as the single father of 13-year-old fraternal twins, Keithley has learned from every bump in the road.

Today, he lives each day one at a time, and changes the things he can—and one of the things Keithley hopes to change is the old-school “thumper” vest that his daughter Kija needs to stay alive. Kija has had Cystic Fibrosis since birth, said Keithley.

According to the Mayo Clinic web site, Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening disorder that causes severe damage to the lungs and digestive system. Approximately 30,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with the disease, notes the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The AboutHealth web site notes that while many people with cystic fibrosis (CF) and other medical conditions use high-frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) vests as part of their daily airway clearance routine, the vests can cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

“The financial challenges have been huge,” Keithley said, “and changes to the insurance laws have only made it worse.   The vest Kija wants is the new style—but because she has an older vest, they don’t want to pay for a new one.”

So Keithley has set up a GoFundMe site for Kija’s new vest.

“She is going to need this vest for the rest of her life,” Keithley said. “She has to take a vitamin every day that costs $3 a pill. She can’t go to summer camp because of the medical risks, and if she goes to a friend’s house, she can’t stay more than one night.”

The little family spends as much time as possible outdoors, riding long boards, playing volleyball and basketball and hanging out at the lake—though Keithley recently sold his boat because of the costs. Today he works for a Downtown bistro as a sous chef, but Keithley recalls periods when he was earning far more—and not living the life he wanted to live.

“When the kids were babies I moved to Kansas City to start an electrical company with a friend,” he said, “and it took OFF. We had 65 employees, and I was so busy I was paying somebody else to raise my kids. But then the tornado came. It sucked the water out of my pool, and dropped the “Just for Feet” store from the mall in my backyard—I had 10,000 pairs of shoes back there.”

After picking up the shoes and cleaning up, Keithley sold out and moved his young family back to Montrose, where his family has had homes for many years.

“We came back here and moved into grandma’s house,” he said. Though Keithley later worked as manager of the Montrose BMX track for several years, things hit a snag when he was arrested for earning money illegally on the side three years ago.

“I went to prison,” he said. “It was a real eye opener for me to change the way I was living—when you have shootouts at your house, you know things are all wrong.”

A beloved older dog passed away just weeks before his release, and Keithley learned once again from the school of hard knocks.

“I got through it, and I will never go back,” he said.

Today, when he is not at work, the 42-year-old single dad can be seen riding a skateboard around town with son Kole, and spending time with family and friends.

“The twins are doing great,” he said. “Kole gets straight A’s, though Kija struggles and gets A’s and B’s. They do phenomenal things—they are just really great kids.”

Though he has relied largely on his own resources for so many years, Keithley hopes that the community will help make life just a little better for his daughter—a Centennial Middle School student who spends much of her own time helping to support good causes and school fundraisers.

“The thumper vest is an everyday thing,” he said. “The new ones are so much lighter, and she has a small frame. This is something she will need twice a day, as long as she lives.”