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Hughson man awaits new heart
Shannon Harrison's world began to unravel in 2006 when he began experiencing chest pains. A battery of tests gave way to a series of heart operations and expensive stays in the Bay Area. Now doctors say the 48-year-old Hughson man has no alternative but to get a new heart.

Harrison is one of 39 Californians currently awaiting a heart transplant. The wait has not been easy for Shannon, his wife Monica and their four children.

"It's a little scary," said Harrison. "I've already been through two bypass surgeries. But this time they're actually going to take my heart and throw it in the trash can and put another one. Yeah, it's a little bit scary."

Doctors have warned that if and when he gets a new heart, complications like rejection could result.

"They have, of course, a list of things that could happen," he said. "It's not guaranteed that it'll work if I get it."

Harrison's heart problems stem from a genetic disorder that clots his blood. He also suffers from coronary arterial disease and spasms. He's endured 14 hospital stays in two years and 11 angiograms.

Harrison was placed on permanent disability from his seven-year job at Stanislaus Foods.

In anticipation of the big surgery and medications - coupled with the expenses his family being in San Francisco for six weeks following the operation - the community of Hughson is set to rally around the family with a community barbecue. A drive-thru BBQ Benefit Dinner will be hosted on Saturday, Oct. 24 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Healing Place Pentecostal Church of God, corner of Fox and Euclid. Tickets are $10 and are available at many of Hughson's local businesses including Hamilton's Cafe, Ace Hardware, Pizza Factory, Dickey's Union 76 and Lacy's Furniture.

The goal of selling 600 tickets should raise between $5,000 to $6,000 for Shannon's family. Because he recently spent six days in a San Francisco hospital, the family learned how expenses rack up quickly.

Ted and Cheryl Gilton, church friends of the Harrisons, are spearheading the fundraiser. They contacted the Hughson High School FFA and Ag Booster Club to participate and both have agreed to help out with donations. Other Hughson businesses are donating supplies.

Hughson residents since 1996, the Harrisons have been an active members of The Healing Place, where both Shannon and Monica have worked as youth pastors. For a time they opened a Youth Outreach in downtown Hughson to minister to and encourage the youth. They now serve as Christian education leaders. Daughter Brittany serves as part of the worship team and children's ministries and is currently a junior at Hughson High School.

"I don't know what we would do without our faith," said Monica. "That's probably the only thing keeping us together mentally.

"It just seems unbelievable. I'm just waiting for them to say this is not really happening.

Shannon hopes to attend the fundraiser but notes "It's hard for me to be up and around and about a lot."

Those who can't make the dinner but want to help with monetary donations may contribute to a trust fund opened at the Bank of the West's Hughson branch. For additional information contact the Healing Place at 883-4977.