PICKENS COUNTY, Ga. — Pickens County Deputy Cassie Defoor is only 30 years old and has been part of the Uniform Patrol Division for the past two years. Now, she's in the battle of her life.
Defoor has a congenital heart defect that hasn't slowed her down from fulfilling her life's calling ... until now.
Throughout her career in Pickens County, and at her previous position at the Gordon County Detention Center, Defoor has had a pacemaker--she received it when she was 20--that has helped keep her going strong, every step of the way.
According to Pickens County Sheriff's Capt. Chris Stancil, a complication during a routine procedure this past Thursday to adjust and update the pacemaker resulted in a tear in the deputy's aorta, which caused massive bleeding. She underwent an emergency surgery to repair the tear.
Stancil said there was an extensive transfusion of blood involved in the surgery.
"I believe 40 units of blood were involved," he said.
Medically defined, one unit of blood is roughly equivalent to one pint of liquid. Between eight and 12 pints of blood are in the body of the average adult.
Following the surgery, Stancil said, Defoor was placed on a ventilator and bypass machine. Defoor was also placed in a medically-induced coma to facilitate healing.
She has since been weaned from the ventilator and is as of Monday afternoon was almost able to breathe completely on her own.
Stancil said the doctors are concerned the young deputy may have brain damage. However, doctors are not able to take an MRI to assess the level of brain damage, since Defoor needs to remain on machines to help her heart function.
Defoor has a ten year old son, and her family, along with her coworkers from the sheriff's office, have taken over a waiting room at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, where everyone is waiting out the clock.
Her mother and other close relatives are from Ellijay. In addition, Defoor has some extended family from Marietta and Roswell that have been there to support her.
"Plus, she has an entire 'other family' supporting her inside the sheriff's office," Stancil said.
Doctors are being guarded about a long-term prognosis for Defoor's condition. Stancil says they want to get to a point when she can be weaned off of the bypass machine so they can see where they stand now.
"Her heart is starting to work on its own," he said. "They're hopeful that they can get to a point this [Monday] afternoon where they can get the MRI taken. Then, they'll have a better idea where things stand."
At that point, Stancil said, they'll know more. But for now, the important part is letting people know that they can support Deputy Defoor through a GoFundMe page that has been established to help with her medical bills.
"She's from a working-class family. They weren't prepared for something catastrophic like this," he said.
The GoFundMe page was established by the Sheriff's Auxiliary Unit of the Pickens County Sheriff's Office, which helps to provide assistance as well as moral support for law enforcement officers and their families. The Sheriff's Auxiliary is a 501c3 non-profit organization. As of Monday morning, the GoFundMe page had raised about $6,400.
"Then, there's the power of prayer," Stancil said. "Thousands of people have sent their support through our Facebook page and to us directly, which has provided a huge source of comfort to Cassie's family."
Stancil said he is remaining hopeful, even as he's helping with the ongoing hospital vigil.
"We are asking that everyone keep Cassie, her young son and her family in their prayers and to continue to pray for them," he said. "There's a fight ahead, but with God's help, it can be won."
Pickens County Chief Deputy Jeff Hall talks of Defoor as a dedicated and hard-working deputy. "She's out there with our citizens, protecting the citizens of Pickens County.... She dedicated herself to become a deputy Sheriff.... She's served our community with the utmost professionalism."
Now, Hall said, Deputy Defoor is the one who needs support.
"Insurance only covers so much," Hall said, "the family has a burden of financial costs, so it's important that, if anybody can help, that we try to . She's a servant for our community, and we believe servants should be recognized in a time of need."
Defoor's boyfriend, who is also in law enforcement, said everyone who loves her is thankful for the support she is receiving in the GoFundMe campaign from people they've never met, who recognize how she risks her life every day for all.
"She really strives to protect and serve her community. What she does, it means a lot to her. And she really cares about people... She needs the support. We want her to push through this.... We're just hoping, with time, she does recuperate... So many people are praying, and we just want everyone to stay positive, is the biggest thing. Just pray. Hope everything turns out all right."