CLARKSVILLE, Ind. — For years, retired Sergeant Ernie Adams and his family were the ones serving the Clarksville, Indiana community; but this year, in their hour of need, they’ve been given the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of help. 

“It started in 1992,” Adams said. “I was in a pursuit, and I ended up having to wreck the guy.  He was in a stolen car.  And both of us wrecked.  He jumped out and ran, and I jumped out to chase him.  And my chest was hurting really bad. I thought I had some broken ribs. They took me to the hospital, and that’s when I found out I had a heart problem.”

Ernie Adams in uniform
Old photos of Ernie Adams in uniform
Family photos provided

Adams was diagnosed with severe coronary blockage on that May night in 1992, and it began his health battle that has lasted more than a quarter of a century.  He has endured three open-heart surgeries, received 29 stints and 57 heart catheters. 

“He went through a lot, and each time he went through it, it didn’t matter what they said in the end,” recalled his wife Becky, remembering the number of dashed hopes for a cure. “I just went home and did what I had to do.”

Each operation that Adams had only added to the frustration and sadness since they weren’t able to offer Adams any lasting improvement to his quality of life.  His most recent open heart surgery, in 2018, had similarly disappointing results.

However, in early 2019 Adams’ doctors began weighing the option of a heart transplant with him. A mere four days after the conversation they had a perfect match waiting for him down in at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. 

Ernie Adams in hospital
Ernie Adams in hospital after surgery
Family photo provided

“It was really scary because I was thinking about it for the four days,”  Adams said. “ I was even telling my wife that I didn’t know if I could go through another surgery, and I was about ready to back out.

“I believe in God, and I believe it was meant to be and it was meant to happen the way it happened.  But I was still nervous.”

The transplant has been an initial success, and Adams said he feels better now than he has in years.  His medical journey is far from over, though, as doctors will need to have regular checkups over the next year to make sure his body doesn’t reject the heart.  The Adams family has shouldered and will continue to shoulder, expenses they weren’t ready for as they’ve put their lives and jobs on hold.

In their time of need, the community that Sergeant Adams once served in uniform has sent the love back to him.  Adams’ daughters started a GoFundMe page to collect donations, and have created “I Support Ernie’s New Heart” bracelets to fundraise.  They have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. 

Adams family
Adams family
family photo provided

“It’s been a huge success,” said Heather Wilson, his daughter. “A huge support from our community, from our friends, from our family, from even strangers.  And that’s what’s so empowering about it.  People who don’t even know you are willing to help you out.”

Wilson said anyone interested in getting a bracelet supporting Sergeant Adam’s heart transplant can reach out to her directly on Facebook

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Contact reporter Rob Harris at rjharris@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@robharristv) and Facebook.