Jeff Thompson sits in the recliner that is his round-the-clock home and can draw an analogy from his 20-year career in law enforcement to describe his life now.
“It’s almost like sitting in jail, on Death Row,” he said.
Thompson, 46, suffers from a rare and eventually deadly form of clotting disease that has now filled his heart and the arteries that feed it.
A former Richmond County sheriff’s deputy, Thompson was medically retired from the department in April 2011 after suffering a stroke while working at the jail the year before. After another clot blocked a kidney and caused him to be hospitalized for 10 days in February, the family finally had to make the decision to put him on hospice care. But even with Medicare coverage, continuing treatment outside hospice care for the clotting and diabetes costs nearly $400 a month out of pocket and they still owe thousands to hospitals.
Friends are organizing a fundraiser for Thompson to help the family with those bills and show their support. “Help Jeff Beat the Clot” will be held starting at 7 p.m. Friday at the Sidetrack Bar and Grill, 4029 Washington Road. They are hoping to see some of Thompson’s former colleagues, said Jessica Thompson, his wife.
“They’re our family,” she said. “Our life was the Sheriff’s Department for 23 years. And Jeff misses that.”
The clotting creates new problems all the time for Thompson, who is in late-stage heart failure.
Back in February, it was a severe headache “and some seizure-like activity, which was new,” Jessica said, which led his family to take him to the emergency room. Once there, he became disoriented, she said.
“Jeff didn’t know where he was, he saw little green people,” Jessica said. “It was horrible.”
This time a clot had shut down his kidneys.
“He was in full kidney failure,” she said.
There is one in his left leg right now that causes it to swell if he moves around too much and even the smallest activity drains him. His brother, Joe, tried to take him fishing recently and it took a toll.
“The recovery period for that is days,” Jessica said.
“Like three or four days,” said his daughter, Lauren, 15.
It is hard on her and her sister, Ashlee, 20, because they never know what to expect when they come home.
“Lauren is petrified of coming in” and finding him dead, Jessica said. “Ashlee called me this morning and said, ‘Dad hasn’t gotten up and I’m kind of afraid.’ ”
The reality is that little else can be done to help her husband, Jessica said.
“We can’t stop the clotting so the heart is basically full of clots and is shutting down,” she said. “There are several stages of that and he is in the final stage. We don’t know (when) and that is really hard. We don’t know if it is today or if it is tomorrow.”
But Thompson said his long-term goals have not changed.
“To watch my last daughter (Lauren) graduate and to watch my daughters walk down the aisle,” he said.