BROOKSVILLE — His favorite place to be: suspended in the air, stomach rising as he looked through the mud-splattered windshield of his father's pickup, waiting for the cushioned crash.
You couldn't keep Scott Hosfeld away from events with names like Hog Waller and Horse Hole, destinations known to serious mudders, which certainly included Scott, his parents and his three siblings.
"If he knew there was one going on, he would beg to go," said Heather Hosfeld, Scott's mother.
Darrin Hosfeld, a roofing supervisor, drove his family to the weekend escapes in an elegant motor coach, behind which he towed a red Chevy S-10 with 50-inch tractor tires and an ATV Scott had been driving since about as long as he could walk.
In recent years, his parents had to strap a tank containing pure oxygen onto the frame of the four-wheeler, since it was pretty clear the boy needed both to live.
Cystic fibrosis had slowed him down since birth, thickening his lungs with excess mucous secretions.
His parents hoped Scott would be able to get a new set of lungs someday soon. That's why the second-grader at Brooksville Elementary had been living at Shands at the University of Florida, the Gainesville hospital, the past two months, in case donor lungs should suddenly be ready.
Though he didn't have nearly the energy of other children his age, Scott was usually the most chipper presence in any room. An ideal evening consisted of watching SpongeBob or Duck Dynasty while downing as much Mountain Dew as his mother would let him drink.
But he usually had to watch as other children played. When walking got to be too much, his parents carried him or pushed him in a stroller, a thin oxygen hose running to his nostrils.
Scott Michael Lee Hosfeld was born in Spring Hill in 2005, only because the nearest hospital was located there. The youngest of four children, he was Brooksville to the bone, a fan of country music and the pine trees and woods right outside his house.
Heather Hosfeld works as a secretary at Foster's Roofing with her husband. Scott's brother, Darrin II, 12, also has cystic fibrosis. But his isn't as bad.
Cystic fibrosis results from an overproduction of mucus from the exocrine glands, coating the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines and sinuses, often subjecting anyone who has it to bacteria and subsequent infection. Approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States have the genetic illness.
Doctors knew Scott had respiratory problems within three days of his birth. His right lung functioned at just 10 percent; his left lung at 60 to 70 percent.
The illness worsened, but Scott never let anyone around him get too depressed about it.
"If he saw me crying, he'd say, 'Mommy, don't be crying,' " said Heather Hosfeld, 33. "I can't remember the last time he cried real tears."
In September, Scott moved to All Children's Hospital, around the same time he got on a lung transplant list. He moved to Shands several weeks later.
When nurses asked if he needed anything, he asked if they would rub his back or his feet.
"They would do it," his mother said. "Even the ones you wouldn't think would do it, they did it. He just had this way with them."
When asked what he wanted for Christmas, he asked for new lungs.
But getting healthy, child-sized lungs when you need them is difficult. Only 1 in every 5 donors can supply a viable set of lungs, and the ventilators used to keep donors alive have been correlated with high rates of pneumonia.
Scott's mother warned him that a lung transplant would likely leave scar tissue.
"He said, 'That would be the favorite scar I would ever have.' "
After a couple of false starts, the Hosfelds learned three weeks ago about a new child donor without the obvious warning signs. Perhaps Scott finally had a match. If so, it would come in the nick of time. Scott was getting so little oxygen to his brain, it was affecting his alertness and ability to remember. Scott was dying.
Because the new lungs looked promising, a team of cardiothoracic surgeons from Shands flew to New York state to examine them.
Meanwhile, his parents couldn't sleep. They stayed up nearly 24 hours waiting for the results.
The call came at 4 a.m. on a Saturday. The donor lungs contained infected secretions and were unsuitable. "It was awful," Heather Hosfeld said. "It was a very long emotional roller coaster."
Scott died Saturday at Shands. He was 8.
"He always promised me, 'Mommy, I will never give up, I promise you I will never give up,' " his mother said. "He truly never did give up. He fought until he could not fight anymore."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248.