Jason Harris has faced some pretty big obstacles in life.
The biggest is his health. The 26-year-old is plagued by a mysterious illness that’s left him strapped to an oxygen tank and in need of assistance to get around and function day-to-day.
Now he’s facing another significant challenge: getting back home to the Tri-Cities.
Harris and his father, Gary Hinman, moved to Connecticut last year for a change of scenery and pace.
But then Hinman — Harris’ caregiver — was diagnosed with colon cancer. It’s advanced, and he’s now in hospice care.
Harris has few options in Connecticut. If he stays, he’ll likely end up in a nursing facility — his biggest fear, said Sandra Thede of Kennewick, his older sister.
So she’s arranging to get him home.
Because of his poor health and need to be on oxygen, the best option is a cross-country train ride, she said. She’ll have his belongings shipped here.
Money is tight and the travel and shipping are hefty expenses, so she’s hoping to raise $4,000 to help with the cost.
It’s a sad and stressful time for the family, Thede said.
Harris, in particular.
“Jason is so scared. Can you imagine?” she said.
The Herald has featured the young man in its pages several times during the past decade.
In 2007, when he was 16, he shared his frustration with being sick.
“I really wish they could find something to cure me. Then I might be able to go back and finally be outside,” he said. “I’m kind of tired of being inside all the time with oxygen. I was an active little kid. I don’t really feel I have much freedom.”
A few years later, in 2012, Harris was named valedictorian of his graduating class at River’s Edge High School in Richland.
It was an impressive feat, especially considering that his illness meant he was rarely able to set foot in a classroom. He did most of his learning online and with a tutor.
Harris — who is small and thin, appearing younger than 26 — was born weighing a little more than 3 pounds and had unexplained fevers for years.
Eventually, his lips and fingers started turning blue. He tired easily, small tasks wiping him out.
Harris’ condition largely has stumped doctors. Thede said it’s been recommended that he get a double-lung transplant.
Jason is so scared. Can you imagine?
Sandra Thede of Kennewick
In summer 2016, Hinman and Harris left the Tri-Cities for Connecticut. Hinman grew up there and thought the move would be good for father and son.
But then his diagnosis came. He didn’t share it with his Tri-Cities family at first, not wanting to burden them, Thede said.
Now he’s in his final days.
Extended family is caring for him and Harris at the moment, but it’s not an arrangement that can last, Thede said.
The bulk of Harris’ family is in the Tri-Cities. It’s best for him to come home, the sister said.
She plans to travel to Connecticut to see her dad and get her brother set to move.
When he’s back in the Tri-Cities, Harris will live with Thede’s daughter, Olivia.
Olivia, who’s pregnant, is close with her uncle and has plenty of room at home.
She said she’s devastated about her grandfather, and she feels the stress of her uncle’s predicament. But she’s doing her best to keep herself together and stay positive.
Thede is, too. But it’s a tough.
“What’s supposed to be a happy time — my first grandbaby coming — is really hard,” Thede said, breaking into tears.
To help the family with Jason Harris’ moving expenses, go to tinyurl.com/jasonharrishome.