Leavenworth man battles fires and failing heart

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LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (WIBW) -- A local volunteer firefighter has seen his fair share of medical emergencies, now he’s facing an emergency of his own.

For nearly a decade, Kasey Smith has spent any free time in between work and family at the Alexandria Township Fire Department.

“The fire service is probably the greatest job that there is,” Smith said.

It’s been his second home, a place where the 29-year-old volunteer firefighter is willing to risk his life no matter what life throws at him.

“I get tired of going to work and having to come out on a fire call or for training and then I just think, well what would Kasey do, and Kasey would come out no matter what and take care of business,” Fire Chief Tony Burr said.

Right now, life is telling him to slow down.

Kasey spends a lot of time with his 10-month-old son Waylon and wife Sara at their home in Leavenworth.

“I broke my elbow and I had to go into the hospital for elbow surgery,” explained Smith. “They came in and they said your heart is beating really weird.”

Kasey had heart surgery in May. When he came out, doctors told him he was in severe heart failure.

He now relies on a mechanical pump called an LVAD to help his heart do its job and keep him alive until he can get a new one.

“Really what we’re hoping for is to get a heart sooner or later,” Smith said.

“It’s been rough, but we’ve been leaning on each other and that’s all you really can do and just hope and pray for the best,” Sara said.

Sara has hoped and prayed like this before. In 2009, just two months after she met Kasey, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“When they came back with the x-ray they couldn’t see my lungs the tumor was so big,” Smith said.

The then 20-year-old went through 10 rounds of chemotherapy over 8 months. He went into remission in 2010.

Daily life is difficult for Kasey, both then and now, he says he feels tired and weak. But to watch him and meet his friends and family, it’s clear he has a lot to live for.

“Ever since I met Kasey I realized quickly that he wanted to give to others,” said family friend Mike Minihan. “And when you see someone like that that is in need, it’s really easy to want to help them in return.”

“He keeps worrying about us and I keep telling him, don’t worry about us, you worry about yourself,” said Burr. “We’ll be able to do what we need to do here.”

It’s people that keep him fighting.

“It’s a pretty big emotional booster to be able to still hang out up there and still know what’s going on,” Smith said.

And looking towards the future.

“It’s always been the dream to have that American dream family,” said Smith. “I’d like to raise my son and have another one.”

Because even though his heart is slowing down, it’s still in the Alexandria Township Fire Department.

“We have to force him to stay away from the fire department right now,” Burr said.

Kasey has no plans to stop volunteering. But he is making plans for a heart transplant. The average wait time is about 14 months.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to Kasey click here.