An Argentine Township firefighter who’s worked for the department since 1984 is now looking for help from the community that he has protected for decades.
Assistant Fire Chief Frank Hatton, 56, has lived in Argentine Township nearly his whole life, since 1969. In August 2018, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and is currently using two oxygen concentrators.
“The Argentine firefighters and community are requesting your help and support for a lifelong member of our family,” reads a gofundme page started by Fire Chief Matt Lafferty.
In May, Hatton received a call from Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids and made the 100-mile car ride for an urgent evaluation where he learned that his condition progressed faster than expected.
He needs a lung transplant to survive.
“It was like, ‘wait, what did you just say?’ Shock, denial, scared all wrapped into one,” Hatton said. “It has put a lot of things in perspective for me.”
He’s currently at home in Argentine with his family.
“I cannot say enough for my team in Grand Rapids. They are awesome. Everyone there is top notch. They expedited the test I needed before a transplant. I am currently on the list, awaiting the call which can come at anytime,” he said.
His medical bills are adding up. According to the gofundme, they’re at “an amount higher than you can imagine. It’s higher than any of us are able to help alone or even as an association. On top of that, the medication that will be needed for the rest of his life will equal (the) cost of a new car every year.”
Along with medication expenses, the cost to travel about 100 miles from their house to the hospital in Grand Rapids adds up.
The gofundme goal is $100,000. As of Saturday afternoon, around $1,200 had been donated. To find the page, search “Firefighters Rally to Help Their Assistant Chief” gofundme. Click the link here.
“Frank is strong willed and isn’t the type to ask for help. After spending the last 35 years being the one providing help to his community, he’s having a hard time being on the other side of things. What better way to thank him for all the sacrifices he’s made helping others than to make what sacrifices we can to support him and his family,” according to the gofundme.
He has two children, Andrea and Jeremy, and two grandchildren, Jaxon and Keri. Jeremy followed his father’s footsteps by joining the Argentine Township Fire Department as well, according to the gofundme page.
“When and if I get the call, family will have to be with me for about two months after the surgery. That’s rough on them to imagine going into work and telling your boss you had to take time off. Plus the emotional and physical toll it takes on them,” he said.
Hatton decided to become a firefighter because Dick Harwood, the dad of one of his good friends, was on the Argentine Township Fire Department.
Hatton said, at the time there was no 911, and they used “ephones,” which were phones in the firefighters’ houses.
“After seeing what these individuals did to help the community, I decided to give back, too,” he said. “I’ve never regretted that decision.”
Hatton said he can’t say enough about his fire department family.
“They have also stepped up. It’s been a trying year for a few folks on the department, but we are there to support one another,” he said.