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In seventh grade Jim Fry lost consciousness during a basketball game. He suffered from a heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition he was born with. He could no longer play his favorite sport, basketball.
At that time not too much was known. It wasnít until his 30s that he discovered how much the disease would impact him, his wife, Kathi, and their two sons, Nick, sixth grade, and Zack, second grade.
Jim is a fifth grade teacher at the Fleetwood Middle School and Kathi is a fourth grade teacher at Andrew Maier Elementary.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a disease that leads to thickening of the heart muscle making it harder for the heart to pump blood. The heartís electrical system may also be affected. While only a small number of people are affected with this condition, most people go on to lead normal lives with no problems.
Not only was Jimís heart failing, the problem was compounded with liver damage caused by medications he had been taking for HCM. His doctors recommended a complete heart and liver transplant.
After their youngest son was born, Jim and Kathi were overwhelmed and exhausted. They didnít think that having a second kid was so exhausting. They didnít think that there would be a problem handling it. They look back and realize thatís when Jim started with heart failure. Everything seemed more difficult and more challenging. They also attributed his weight gain to inactivity, getting older, and thinking it was a slowing metabolism not realizing it was actually a build-up of fluid brought on by heart failure.
Although the medicines he was given helped with the fluids, by the summer of 2012, even the meds were ineffective; there was irreversible damage to his liver because of the severity of the heart failure. The doctors felt both had to be replaced and Jim was placed on a waiting list.
Christmas Eve, Fry got a call that a donor became available and on Christmas Day, 2012, he underwent a heart and liver transplant at the University of Penn Hospital in Philadelphia.
ďIt was like a miracle of Christmas. His outlook is good, because heís young and the rest of him is fairly healthy,Ē said Kathi.
Although he will be unable to work for a year, his recovery is going well. Fry is looking forward to resuming a normal life teaching and being active with his family and friends.
ďWeíre just so elated with the results. Even though he went through so much because of the pain of the recovery, he can actually feel stronger already. The day that he had the surgery done, I asked him if he could feel a difference and he shook his head yes. When he woke up, he could feel that his heart was pumping.Ē
Kathi said Jim was constantly out of breath; constantly exhausted. It was a struggle for him to do simple everyday things. He was told to take a year off of work to recover because his heart was that bad and that weak. The doctors want him to focus on taking care of himself and to rest. They expect him to have a full recovery and be able to go back to his regular lifestyle. The recovery is six months to a year.
The Fryís are hoping to begin cardiac rehab in a couple of weeks. It is more than his heart that will need help. Over the past five years, he lost most of his muscle because of not being able to be active. Itís still early, but the Fryís are looking forward to Jim being able to run, play basketball, and do regular activities.
Jennifer Schroeder, friend of Jimís since high school, found a way to help when she was approached by Ashley Isamoyer, independent consultant for Pampered Chef, and her husbandís aunt, Desiree Heller, Scentsy consultant. Isamoyer and Heller raised $4,000 last year to help a woman with breast cancer. In continuing to live up to their commitment to give back to the community, they were looking for someone to help this year when they met Schroeder, Thirty-One independent consultant, at one of her parties.
They are hosting the Vendor/Crafter Benefit for Jim Fry on March 23 from 12-5 p.m.at Richmond Elementary. The event features pictures with the Easter Bunny, food, crafts, vendors, childrenís activities and raffles.
ďI cannot say enough about how Ashley and Des are just really big-hearted people. It takes a lot of time to plan something and they are doing this on their time. Itís neat to see, because in this world sometime we donít always see the good and now I have two new friends,Ē said Schroeder.
There will also be a lemonade stand by the second grade class of Richmond Elementary inspired by Schroederís daughter, Kylie, who is in second grade with Zack Fry at Richmond Elementary and wanted to do something to help.
ďItís a good way to earn money for Jim Fry and it is fun for second graders. It is a fun activity,Ē said Kylie.
Fleetwood Middle School PrincipalChristopher S. Redding said that in general whenever there is a need,ďthe outpouring of support that maybe initiates from a studentís perspective that carries over to a parent that carries over to a community, I can say that itís not just Fleetwood; itís Blandon, itís Richmond Township, itís all three coming together. They are always, always, always willing to give and give and give and give. Itís tremendous to see and this is no different.Ē