Sharp County Judge Harold Crawford is in a Little Rock Hospital and won't be able to come home until he receives an important piece of equipment -- a new heart.
Crawford, 65, was admitted to Baptist Hospital Sept. 17 after his kidneys began to fail. Crawford said he is feeling much better after days in the hospital, an attentive doctor and the needed medications.
"I feel great," Crawford said. "Much, much better than I was a few days ago. I was a pretty ill fellow when they brought me in."
Crawford suffers from congestive heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the need 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. But, his condition has worsened since then.
For the last two years, only 10 percent of Crawford's heart has been functioning, he said.
"There's just nothing left of it anymore," Crawford said. "There's a bunch of dead tissue and dead muscle."
Trying to prepare him for his next surgery, his doctor, Dr. Steven Hutchins, is medicating and monitoring his condition from Crawford's hospital room in the capital city. Although Crawford said he is feeling better, Hutchins said he won't go home without a new heart.
Crawford had been wearing a beeper at his side since February. If the beeper had gone off, Crawford would have had three hours to get to the Little Rock hospital for the transplant to occur. Now at the top of the nationwide list of heart recipients, he is hoping his stay won't be much longer.
"We're hoping we'll be hearing that helicopter fly in one of these days," Crawford said. "If it's a fit, the next heart that comes in will be ours. The people that know me know that I'm a shaker and a mover and I'm wearing the carpets out on the hallway down here."
Soon after Crawford was admitted a heart was found but it was too large for him. It was transplanted into another heart recipient across the hall from him.
"They say the heart I get needs to be from someone 120-190 pounds," Crawford said. "Luckily, 80 percent of the hearts that come in are from those."
Nationwide in 2002, 2,000 hearts were available for transplant. Because of the limited number of hearts and the growing list of people needing transplants, Crawford said he feels honored to be at the top.
"I feel lucky to be on the list for one of them," Crawford said."It's been so long and I've felt so bad for such a long time it will be a good thing when the heart comes in."
While a heart transplant is major surgery, it doesn't take major time to recover, Crawford said. Now, the hospital stay is only 10 days without complications with a few weeks of rest at home.
Although hospitalized three hours from his home and job, Crawford has been staying in touch with what's happening in Sharp County. He said county officials call him daily and he completes work from his hospital room. In fact, he received a Federal Express package Wednesday with budget documents.
"It doesn't look like I'll be in the office when the justice complex is opened or to finish the budget, but the quorum court and other county officials have really stepped forward and pitched in," Crawford said. "I'm doing all I can and they're doing everything else. Hopefully, I'll be back soon to do it from there."