After more than two months of bedrest following a heart transplant, Sharp County Judge Harold Crawford is back at work.
"I'm just coming right along real well," Crawford said. "I'm feeling real good."
Crawford returned to work Feb. 2 working half days until his doctor, Dr. Steven Hutchins, allows him to return full-time.
"It will still be a while before I get my strength back," Crawford said. "I'm trying to take it easy right now."
After having a heart transplant Thanksgiving morning, Crawford, 65, had been recuperating at home and chomping at the bit to return to work.
"The doctors did all the major checks Monday (Feb. 2) and said I was at least six weeks ahead of the average heart transplant patient by way of recovery," Crawford said.
Hutchins told him he could return to work if he worked only two hours a day for the first two weeks. Crawford said he can't help but work more. He said he works until lunch time and then heads home for the day.
Crawford has been reporting to Little Rock for weekly doctors' appointments. Each time he is there, he said, doctors take a biopsy of his heart to see if his body shows any signs of rejection to the heart. The biopsy is rated from 1 to 4 with 1 meaning no sign of rejection. So far, Crawford has received a rating of 1 each week.
The biopsies will be cut back to every other week and then will be conducted monthly, he said.
Crawford suffered from congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of body tissues. His first bout with heart problems came in 1986 when he suffered a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He had another small heart attack in 1998 but recovered with experimental drugs; however, his condition continued to worsen. For the last two years, only 10 percent of his heart was functioning.
Before he received his new heart, Crawford's condition began to affect other areas of his body. He was hospitalized in September 2003 when his kidneys began to fail because of his condition.
Crawford had been at the top of the list for a new heart since February 2003. He carried a beeper at his side for months which was to notify him if a heart became available. If the beeper went off, Crawford had three hours to get to Baptist Hospital for the transplant.
He was told three times a heart had become available before he received his new heart. One was too large and the other two were too small. He needed a heart from an individual weighing 120 to 190 pounds. He said 80 percent of the donors fit into that weight category.
While Crawford waited for a match, his home served as a makeshift hospital room. A nurse came to his home every other day to monitor his medications, draw his blood and report the results to his doctor. Always a fighter, Crawford was only the second person to leave a hospital facility while taking the dangerous heart medication, Dobutamine, a high-powered drug that increases the heart function.
While at home, Crawford stayed in contact with county officials daily and worked from his hospital bed. In fact, he helped work out the 2004 budget with the JPs, he said.
Crawford said he is glad his waiting is over.
"This new opportunity, this new heart, it's really been a blessing," he said. "It really has."