GRASSFLAT – Heroes come in many forms. Some are people who take an extra step to help others, some are sports figures and others are heroes simply because people admire their attitude about life. Eric Laird, fits the later description.
Eric was nominated as our “Hometown Hero” by his step-daughter, Kassondra Coulter, who said he has always been a good father, a Veteran and a dedicated employee of the state correctional institute at Houtzdale.
But his extreme heroism is being shown, as he waits for a life-saving heart transplant.
In December, Eric suffered a massive heart attack, known as a widow maker, Kassondra said.
“During his three months in the hospital, he survived many complications thrown his way, including issues of bleeding out after many stent surgeries, being unresponsive at one point, being on a life support machine and successfully going through LVAD surgery,” she said in her nomination letter.
He has survived many things that no one thought he could, she said in a phone interview. “This shows how strong his body and spirit are.”
His family has also shown strong support for him. Of her mother, Kassondra responded, “she is a fire cracker.”
At one time when he was unresponsive and in a coma, Kassondra said the staff would not let her mother, Maria, talk to him.
She demanded to be allowed see and talk with him and after this, he began to move his toes and fingers and became responsive again.
Her mother also had a preacher go into his room each day and pray for him.
Currently, he is home in Grassflat, waiting for the call that a heart is available for him.
“Every time I hear sirens, I am concerned about who is in trouble, but I also think ‘this is it,’ which is so contradictory.”
At this point, he is third on the list for a transplant, but it may be a problem that he is actually doing so well at home as priority will be given to more seriously-ill patients.
The LVAD machine pumps the blood through his body as he waits.
“He has no pulse,” she stated, which is an odd thing to say about someone who is alive. The machine sounds like an elevator. “It is so funny to hear it.”
There are concerns about the machine if the electricity should go out in their home, but he does have two battery packs which allow him to go “out and about” for short periods of time.
“He gets nervous if he is out too long,” but they are grateful that he has a way and is strong enough to leave the house.
When he first got home in February, she said he couldn’t move very well.
“It was horrible having to watch him be unsteady and not able to walk even with a walker.”
He had to relearn everything but as she commented, “he is a fighter.”
Still, he is disappointed that he is not able to do the things he used to do, such as helping her move recently.
“His worst fear is not being able to do the things he loves,” she said such as hunting, welding, riding his utility task vehicle (UTV).
The heart attack came not while Eric was working at the prison where he had been for 19 years, but on his day off. He was only 48 at the time. He had hoped to retire at 55 or 60.
Doctors didn’t expect him to survive. “Mom did not want to give up on him.”
Eric became Kassondra’s step-father when she was 3 years old and he never hesitated in his responsibilities for her.
“I was his daughter from the get go and he never treated me differently.”
He is the type of man who always stopped to help people, such as helping her brother’s friends with vehicle repairs.
“He would give you the shirt off his back.”
His heart attack hit a lot of people hard, she explained, leading to people coming together to set up a Gofundme page to help pay for his helicopter transport to a Pittsburgh Hospital.
Although they raised enough money for that bill, his insurance is only covering about 20 percent of the cost of the transplant, so money is still a problem.
The couple is surviving on his retirement funds because Maria has not gone back to work because she can’t leave him.
If you would like to help out, go to https://gofund.me/d024a7bb or gofundme.com and search for Eric Laird (Eric’s heart transplant and meds).
Prayers are also requested for his recovery.
“I believe that the more people pray, God hears that and can give him a little more strength.”
If bravery and handling adversity are standards for a hero, Eric definitely qualifies.
“My Dad is strong and courageous,” Kassondra said in her nomination letter. “He is our hero.”