Harold Jackson’s Road To A New Heart
Harold Jackson, 65 years old, has spent most of his adult life as a public servant. At the young age of 18, after graduating from high school and unbeknownst to his parents and family, he joined the United States Marine Corp to serve his country with the hope to be deployed to Vietnam. At the age of 26, he joined his hometown police department, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, where he proudly served from May 1979 until his retirement in September 2015. During his law enforcement career, he worked as an undercover vice officer, homicide detective and gang intelligence detective. He also volunteered on a regular basis at local food pantries and worked closely with community youth regarding gang awareness. To say that he our Uncle has lived a life of servitude to his country, family and friends is certainly a true statement.
Upon Uncle Hal’s retirement, he and our Aunt Frances, who is also a retired police officer, along with their fur baby, Riley, moved to the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, to begin the next chapter of their life. Their goal was to enjoy the Sunshine State and to travel as much as possible. However, in February 2018, their lives took a terrible left turn.
On Super Bowl Sunday, which is one of Uncle Hal’s favorite days of the year, he had an episode while during his daily exercise. While walking, he was not able to catch his breath and felt extremely fatigued. This was highly unusual, as he has always had a very robust exercise regimen and normally ran three to five miles daily. Knowing how odd this was for him, he decided to go to the doctor the next day. His doctor told him that he had walking pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics to clear the pneumonia. After three days of taking the medication, Uncle Hal still could not catch his breath and the fatigue persisted. He returned to the doctor and was told to give the medicine more time. On February 12, 2018, he made a third trip to the doctor with the same symptoms. At that time, his heart was racing over 185 beats a minute. He was then rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. While in the ER, the doctors determined he was in heart failure and his heart was only functioning at a 10% capacity. At this time, he was admitted to ICU. Doctors determined that a virus had possibly attacked his heart. His vitals were staggering, which also caused kidney and liver failure. After three days in critical care, the medications finally began to work and his health began to improve. Seven days later, he was released from the hospital on the condition that he wear a device called a Life Vest, which is a portable defibrillator. He had to wear the Life Vest 24/7 and could never be left alone. At this time Aunt Frances, who had been working at a local municipal zoning dept as Code Enforcement Officer had to quit her job to ensure Uncle Hal was never alone. He started cardiac rehab therapy, where he was able to begin exercising and was feeling better within weeks.
However, on May 6, while he was walking in the neighborhood, his Life Vest activated and he returned to the hospital where the doctors concluded that that they needed to implant a defibrillator/pacemaker. When the life vest activated, he suffered a terrible burn to his back from the current of the device. After two months ,the cardiologist recommend he see a cardiac electrophysiologist. The electrophysiologist examined him and determined he needed a cardiac ablation procedure. On July 2, Uncle Hal had the ablation surgery. During this procedure, the electro physicist determined his heart was so weak that he could only do the surgery on the right side of his heart. Aunt Frances was also told that during the surgery, he went into cardiac arrest. He was resuscitated and flown to a larger facility where he could be cared for by a heart transplant team of healthcare providers. This team saved his life!
He was released from the hospital after staying a long 35 days where the majority of the time he was in critical care. During this time, his weight dropped from 180 lbs to 140 lbs. His next phase of care meant he needed to be transferred to a rehab center, where he received physical, speech and occupational therapy. He basically had to learn certain life functions like swallowing all over again. This stay lasted just shy of a month.
Once he returned home from the rehab center, he was enduring outpatient rehab from October through November, but he had to return to the hospital on December 30th again with heart failure complications. He was released on New Year’s Day of this year. On January 11, 2019, he had to be readmitted to the hospital, because he continued to retain fluid around his heart. The cardiologist said he would like to recommend that Uncle Hal go to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, which is a little over two hours from their home. All of his medical files had to be submitted to the Mayo Clinic to see if he would be accepted. Our family and their friends were elated to find out that he was accepted at one of the nation’s premier healthcare facilities.
On January 18th, he went to the Mayo Clinic for the first of what has now been over 30 medical visits and evaluations and treatments. The medical team evaluated him and stated he is definitely candidate for a heart transplant. After a month of testing and evaluation, Uncle Hal was officially deemed a suitable candidate for a heart transplant on March 15th! He currently has a picc line to supply the medication daily that Aunt Frances has to administer. His doctors have determined that his heart is so weak, that he will not survive the wait for the heart transplant - - which could be a year or even longer. Therefore, he will need to receive a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) which is basically a heart pump. After the LVAD surgery, Uncle Hal and Aunt Frances he will be required to live in Jacksonville, near the hospital for approximately 2 months provided there are no complications. Once he has the heart transplant, they will have to once again live in Jacksonville for three months or longer. Both of these extended stays, will require a great deal of financial resources on top of the plethora of medical expenses that this medical crisis has caused them to endure. They will have to find an apartment or home to rent in Jacksonville, which of course also includes utility and living expenses during that time will continuing the upkeep of their home in Oviedo, FL. The hospital stays, medications, travel, regular home expenses and so much more has been exhausting financially. As a family we are elated that Uncle Hal has been approved for the options that lie ahead and we would like to assist in trying to lighten some of the financial burdens they are faced with. We are so thankful for the blessings that God had given thus far and our faith is strong in knowing that He is not through.
Many former coworkers and friends have asked for an outlet to be able to assist. Uncle Hal and Aunt Fran. Please know that any and all donations to them will be used in the most fiscally responsible manner possible. If you are not able to give, we solicit your continued prayers, phone calls, cards, text messages and social media messages. All of these have been uplifting and appreciated in some of the darkest moments they have faced. We continue to look to the Lord.
Natasha J. Reid, Ashley N. Shannon (nieces)
& family of Harold and Frances Jackson