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SYLVATUS — Loved ones of Joe Mabry feel certain he would lead the charge to raise money for multiple sclerosis research, if he could.
Mabry, who died of complications from the congenital heart disease Aug. 11, 2012, will be there in spirit as participants in the New River Valley Walk in Radford for the Blue Ridge chapter of the National MS Society will walk in his honor and memory.
Mabry had already signed up to help the team that Regina Dalton of Sylvatus organized, despite coping with his own history of medical challenges.
“Joe was always a big supporter of anything I did with the MS group,” Regina Dalton explained.
He always worried about other people more than he did himself.
Regina Dalton and Tammy Dalton, Mabry’s mother, said the 19-year-old lived his life to the fullest despite his heart problem.
At Carroll County High School, he joined the Cavalier Battalion of the JROTC and ran two miles like the other cadets until his doctors told him to stop.
In the midst of dealing with his health problems, he joined the junior Laurel Rescue Squad and took classes to become an emergency medical technician.
Mabry had an enlarged heart with around 15 to 18 percent function. He underwent several surgeries in his teenage years, beginning with a stint in his aorta in order to allow his blood to flow freely.
Surgeons later put in a pacemaker and followed that with a defibrillator on separate occasions in 2009 and 2010. A double bypass was required in November 2011.
In January 2012, doctors put a heart pump in. Mabry’s recovery involved a 42-day stay in the hospital at University of Virginia and six months of taking it easy at home.
After feeling like his heart wasn’t pumping right, Mabry went back to UVa, where doctors found a blood clot in the pump.
Doctors tried blood thinner to dissolve the clot, but after that the choices were another surgery or a new medicine given by IV drip.
Mabry went through two rounds of the medicine. Afterwards, he woke up one night and reported having a bad headache.
Hospital workers had taken Mabry for a CT scan and he became unresponsive.
Surgeons did a craniotomy on Mabry to try to relieve the pressure on his brain, but the swelling didn’t stop.
Mabry never regained consciousness, and doctors found that he had brain damage in five places after suffering from strokes.
He knew the risks. When Mabry signed his living, will he requested a full autopsy so doctors could find out what went wrong with the heart pump and understand how to prevent those problems in the future.
“He had to mature quick in his young life, but he lived it to the fullest,” Tammy Dalton said. “He handled it very well... he was always positive.”
Mabry participated in 2012’s MS walk, despite only having returned from the hospital a few days before, Regina Dalton said.
At the time, Mabry had become totally dependent on medical machines to keep him alive. Tammy Dalton said he wore a fishing vest to hold the two batteries that kept his heart pump working.
Walk participants on the Stateline MS Stompers team will wear caps with Joe’s name on them and organizers will dedicate the whole event to Mabry.
“His mother will be recognized and presented with a moment of Joe’s continued support and contributions by the National MS Society,” Regina Dalton said. “Not only was Joe a member of the walk team, he also helped with any of the other fundraising activities that he possibly could... Joe was committed to doing all he could for the MS Society and their goal of finding a cure and ending MS.”
Regina Dalton and Tammy Dalton together ask for all of Mabry’s family, friends, neighbors and classmates from 2011 to join the MS team and walk in his memory.
“He’s just a good kid and we miss him,” Tammy Dalton said.
• The New River Valley Walk in Radford is scheduled for April 28 in Bissett Park. For more information about participating or making a donation, contact Regina Dalton at (276) 766-9228 or email@example.com.