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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014

News

The Inter-Mountain News: Upshur County man to celebrate a very special anniversary

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

By Becky Wagoner

Staff Writer

One Upshur County man believes that each day is a gift from God, one to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest.

While many celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Jim Lockhart, better known to many as Fuzzy the Clown, is celebrating his 40th anniversary of having open heart surgery today.

On June 18, 1969, Lockhart, 18, was unsure what the future held, or even if there was a future, as he was wheeled into the operating room at Allegheny General Hospital in Pennsylvania for surgery.

"I have always had very good faith and I had made my peace with God," Lockhart said. "I knew I would see God in heaven or, if I survived, I would continue to live and do God's work."

Lockhart knew at an early age that something was wrong but learned the official cause and seriousness of his illness, Pulmonary Stannous, in January 1969. As a small child, the simple act of playing with friends would cause Lockhart's lips, hands and feet to turn blue. Breaks were also necessary after just a few innings of a pick-up baseball game, he said.

As a small boy, the only problem that doctors could detect was a heart murmur.

Lockhart credits his mother for his remaining active, despite the challenges.

"She never limited my activities because of the murmur," he said. "No matter what I was doing, she was always supportive."

Nine days before his surgery, Lockhart crossed another milestone in his life. He graduated from South Hills High School in Pittsburgh on June 9, 1969. With the end of school fast approaching, a teacher began questioning the soon-to-be graduates about their plans for the future.

"Classmates told of their plans to enter the workforce or attend college. I told my plans for open heart surgery," Lockhart said. "This is how my classmates and teacher found out. I did not tell anyone because I did not want to be treated differently." Lockhart's best friend, Dana Morreale, was the only person with the exception of a few school administrators that knew of Lockhart's condition.

With surgery day fast approaching, Lockhart and his father traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to visit his stepmother's family, a trip that was never completed.

"On the way, we were involved in an automobile accident, we were hit by a drunk driver," he said.

Due to his medical condition, Lockhart was evaluated at a local hospital and was immediately transferred to Allegheny General to await surgery.

In 1969, the statistics were not favorable for successful open heart surgery.

"There was an 80 percent chance that I would die during surgery, or be bed ridden for the remainder of my life," Lockhart said. The prognosis for the remaining 20 percent indicated a high chance of limited future activities.

"Back then if a person had a heart catheterization and lived, the chances were a little better that you would live through the surgery, but there were no guarantees," he said.

To read more, visit the Inter-Mountain News web site.

 

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