My main message today stems from the recent death of a fraternity brother and the amazing stories I read and the conversations I had with several old friends. Edward (Eddy) K. Norfleet died last Wednesday from COVID complications after being admitted to the hospital on Sunday. Eddy lived in Amarillo, Texas, where he practiced law and enjoying life with his wife Gina. I don’t know the particulars of his illness, but I think it is not an understatement to say his death was a huge wake-up call to many of our fraternity brothers and it once again reminds us of the importance of taking care of our health and of remembering our friends.
I have a memorable story shared with Eddy and Don Stuart traveling across the Nevada desert in hopes of reaching San Francisco. I will save the details for another time but I do have great memories of Eddie’s laugh and sense of humor. Today, I feel obliged to share another fraternity brother’s story that was shared over the last few days that I believe all of us can relate to in many ways. The story is told by Jim Sharrock an older fraternity brother I don’t know but wish to meet in the future. Important to note, this story was shared with me via two Shawnee, Oklahoma Beta’s, Richard Baptist and Larry Dinkins. Thanks guys for sharing.
Jim’s story goes like this. He was diagnosed with unusual heart disease when he was 28. Jim’s pledge brother, Emory Dilling, is a cardiovascular surgeon in Austin. Emory and Jim kept up with each other after college and talked every time there was a significant change in his heart condition. Jim said he was doing OK until the late ’90s. He went to a Beta reunion and ran into Logan Brown, another pledge brother. Logan was having heart issues much like his.
In May 2015, Logan died of heart disease and other issues. At his funeral, many of their friends said that we need to have a reunion, but not wait for the 50th because someone else might die first. So they held what Jim described as their first really structured reunion in the 49th year after pledging.
In the summer of 2015, Jim developed cirrhosis of the liver and was diagnosed with a non-alcoholic type disease, but related to his heart. At the reunion, Emory learned of his liver problem. About a week later he called and asked for a full update on the heart and liver situation. When Jim finished explaining his condition Emory told him he needed to be listed for a heart transplant ASAP and that his liver disease was caused by his heart issue. Jim said it was a shock to him because his heart disease seldom leads to transplant.
Neither of Emory’s conclusions was supported by his doctors in OKC. Jim doesn’t fault his local doctors but states that the one thing that neither doctor had was a 40-year history of following his heart disease. Emory had never been his doc, examined him, or seen his chart. He just had the knowledge from talking to Jim over a long term perspective. He explained that due to the weakness in his right side of his heart, his blood pressure between the heart and liver had caused pressure in the liver, causing scarring, otherwise known as cirrhosis.
Jim went to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas where they did complete evaluations for both heart and liver transplants. He was told he had less than a year to live with his heart condition and that his liver was so compromised by the heart disease that it might not be adequate for dealing with the recovery issues imposed by the heart transplant. They confirmed Emory’s diagnosis and recommendation. He was accepted to both programs and in 2016 he was transplanted. Today, he is healthier than he was 30 years ago. Jim states it is likely I would not have made it to a 50th reunion.
At the reunion, Jim runs into Steve Miller, said hello, and not much more. About a year after his transplant, a fellow heart recipient suggested I might do some volunteer work with LifeShare, the Oklahoma non-profit organization that manages all things relative to organ donation - recruitment of donors, managing medical matters related to donors, recovering and transporting recovered organs, and working with donor families. Jim checked out the website to make a contact and found Steve’s name on the list of directors and contacted him to offer help. Steve is a urologist who is highly involved in kidney transplants. Next thing, Jim was on the board with Steve and became board chairman on 1/1/21.
Jim’s final comments to the thread of Beta brothers that applies to all of us that have old friends and associations are the following:
Don’t put off reunions.
At theirs, Bob Herlihy was too ill to attend so they included him by Skype.
When you hear about a friend in need, give him a call.
You might be able to help.
Keep up with each other.
It would have been easy for Jim and Emory to drift apart. It was the knowledge of Jim’s history that started him thinking about transplant.
I know I don’t need to remind you, but celebrate the skills, achievements, and contributions to our world made by our brothers.
It is a remarkable group and has been for many years.
I don’t think I can add much to Jim’s great advice. Wow! What a story and another example of reconnecting and the blessings that come from those connections.
I thought it might be worthwhile and important in my effort to expand awareness of the 3rd Act story if I provided a link to a podcast I did last week. Reversing roles, I was interviewed by Elaine Grohman on her Earth Wisdom Circle podcast series on Empower Radio about my mission and desire to increase impact through our 3rd Act community. Please be kind if you haven’t seen me in many years but I thought it would be helpful to those that believe in what I am doing to listen to the story and hopefully get involved in our efforts.
Looking forward to speaking with many of you in the weeks to come.
All the best, Roger
Watch my episode with Empower Radio below: