Eric Smith remembers the 2013 holidays as the time when his family was torn apart.
On Dec. 23, Smith’s father, Dorman, 64, was admitted to the ER with the flu, followed on Christmas Day by his mother, Marilyn, 49, with bronchitis and a double ear infection. As both parents’ health quickly deteriorated, they were diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome, and they were flown from their hometown of Barbourville to the University of Tennessee medical center on Dec. 29 and 31, the latter date being the Smiths’ 32nd wedding anniversary.
2,000,000People globally affected by acute respiratory distress syndrome each year, including 200,000 in the United States, according to the ARDS Foundation
ARDS occurs when fluids build up in the elastic air sacs in the lungs. The fluid prevents the lungs from filling fully with air, resulting in less oxygen reaching the bloodstream, depriving organs of the oxygen needed to function.
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Less than two weeks into the new year, both of Smith’s parents succumbed to ARDS, with Dorman dying on Jan. 7 and Marilyn passing on the 10th. Smith said the final days in the hospital with his parents were “easily the hardest moments of my life.
“In the back of my mind I was wondering ‘What if my dad does pass away? What do I tell my mom? What if she comes out of this?’ It’s one of those things where you don’t know how to react to the situation until you’re in it. The situation can destroy somebody. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was overwhelmingly exhausting, both physically and mentally, and I did a lot of questioning, such as ‘Why is this happening?’ But with such a negative event, I wanted to look at the positives and share my parents’ story about how they were together for so long and couldn’t stand to be apart.”
To honor his parent’s memory, Smith and his band, Moonshine District, will host a benefit concert on Friday night at Cosmic Charlie’s. Proceeds from the $10 cover charge will go to ARDS research.
The benefit will mark the last Lexington show for Moonshine District, for which Smith plays washtub bass. The group’s last show will be July 8 at the Supermoon Music and Arts Festival in Whitesburg. Smith said he’s currently starting a new band steeped in metal influences.
He said that, on Friday night, “We want everyone to have as much fun as possible and celebrate those who have lost their lives to ARDS and turn the situation into a positive by raising awareness through our music and art.”
With such a negative event, I wanted to look at the positives and share my parents’ story about how they were together for so long and couldn’t stand to be apart.
Smith recalled his mother as a ray of sunshine who could make anyone smile and cared about people. He often visits his grandma on Mother’s Day and other special occasions to reminisce with one of the few family members he has left.
Eric said he shared a passion for auto racing with his father, and the two often traveled to Bristol, Tenn., for the National Hot Rod Association Thunder Valley Nationals, which are often held on or near Father’s Day weekend. Eric said the last time he and his father went, in 2013, his father got sick during the day from the lingering effects of open-heart surgery. That dark cloud made the experience bittersweet. .
“My dad was a very hardworking individual who came through poverty to make sure his family had food,” Smith said. “He was as goofy as a flip-flop in winter, but one of the most loving and caring people I’ve ever known, and the closest friend I’ve ever had.”
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites.
If you go
Arts for ARDS
What: One-day event featuring Moonshine District, Opposum Trot Blues Band, Laurel Knox and The Whitleys, and more.
When: 8 p.m. June 23
Where: Cosmic Charlie’s, 723 National Ave.