Last updated: June 01. 2013 12:34AM - 218 Views
Michael Howlett
Staff Writer

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When the Blue Ridge Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society holds its fundraising walk on April 28, it will have special meaning. Not only does the group want to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis, it will be honoring a special young man. Joe Mabry passed away on Aug. 11, 2012, at the University of Virginia Medical Center from complications of a congenital heart disease, but even during the last three years of his life, he was a big supporter of the Twin County MS Chapter.

Mabry was diagnosed with heart disease in 2009 while being treated for ulcers.

“Doctors did a CT scan of his abdomen and noticed his heart was enlarged,” said Tammy Dalton, Mabry’s mother. “He spent two weeks at UVA and they put a stint in at that time. They said his heart was down to 15 to 18 percent of normal function. They said they were surprised he was so ill because he looked so healthy.”

In March of 2010, surgeons implanted a pacemaker “because his heart was so weak,” according to Tammy. “The first time his pacemaker went off, it knocked him out. He got up and it shocked him again. It happened so often, he just laughed it off.”

Despite his all his problems, Tammy said Joe “stayed on the go. You couldn’t get him to stay home.”

Joe was a member of the Laurel Rescue Squad’s junior volunteers, but once the pacemaker was implanted was unable to take the physical test required for full certification. He was also a member of JROTC at Carroll County High School, but had to drop out the last semester of his senior year.

“He loved doing the two-mile (JROTC) runs, but the doctors told him not to do it anymore. He loved JROTC,” said Tammy.

Joe’s condition worsened in 2011 and he underwent double by-pass surgery, then contacted mercer from his ventilating tube. He spent 62 days in the hospital, but got to come home for Christmas. However, in January of 2012 he returned to the hospital to have a heart pump implanted and spent another six months in the hospital. In July of that year, Joe began “feeling funny” and returned to the hospital.

“UVA determined he had a blood clot in his heart pump,” said Tammy. “Then during a CT scan he became unresponsive. Doctors found he had five blood clots in the left side of his brain.”

Doctors then attempted to save Joe by trying an experimental medicine, but two days later during another CT scan, he became unresponsive once again and “stroked out,” according to Tammy. “Joe told the doctors to give him the medicine. He said ‘if it works, it works; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ He knew he was too ill to be put on the transplant list.”

Following the stroke, doctors told Tammy that Joe could last anywhere between eight hours and five days. He lasted only 52 minutes.

Through all his ordeals, Joe was always thinking of someone very important to him – his mother.

“Joe made all the decisions. He knew the risks and made a living will. He was very protective of Tammy,” said Regina Dalton, a MS sufferer and the leader of the Twin County MS Support Group in which Joe participated, and the ex-wife of Tammy’s husband, Danny.

“I sat down with Joe and asked him what he wanted to do. He said ‘Mom, if I’m a vegetable, pull the plug,” said Tammy. “He even requested a full autopsy in hopes doctors would find something that would help other people.”

“He put everybody in front of himself. He just had a desire to help others,” said Regina. “Just seeing the condition he was in and how he kept going all those years gave me a boost. He had a can-do attitude. He never complained about the condition he was in.”

The MS walk on April 28 will take place at Bissett Park in Radford. Registration begins at 1 p.m. and the walk at 2 p.m. Anyone wishing to walk with the Twin County team, the Stateline Stompers, or make a donation, should contact Regina Dalton at 276-766-9228. The Twin County MS Chapter meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at United Country Realty in Hillsville.

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