Daughter opens up after sudden loss of her paramedic father

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A daughter is opening up about the sudden loss of her father, Harold Thompson, a Knox County paramedic, after he passed away Friday.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park said this happened near the Greenbrier Ranger Station. Thompson was hiking there with his brother when he experienced cardiac distress. He was not able to be saved.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel sat down with Thompson’s daughter, Erica Russell. She said her dad was her world. He made an impact on a lot of people in our community too, serving as a paramedic for more than three decades.

He’s continuing to change lives after his death – his corneas and tissues have now been donated.

Erica Russell has a collection marking the three things most important to her dad: His job as a paramedic, hiking and his family.

“He was known for being a family man. He has three grandchildren, he has two children and he has tons of friends,” Russell said of her father.

Also humble and giving, Erica says. For her, the last few days without him have been especially hard.

“In my darkest hour, my daddy was always there, and now he’s gone,” she said.

Thompson died Friday while hiking in the Greenbrier area.

“My dad was one of the healthiest people that we have in the profession, and it was widely known that he had made some significant lifestyle changes, so this can happen to anybody,” Russell said.

As a paramedic, Thompson saved and changed lives. Even after his death, he still is.

He’s an organ donor. Two people now have his corneas and many of his tissues.

“My father is not only my hero but he’s also the hero of two other people and he improved the lives of many others,” she said.

Proving Thompson is continuing to make an impact. His daughther is remembering the impact he’s made on her.

“My dad was a giver. His giving spirit will always be with me,” said Russell.

We also asked Erica what kind of message she hopes her dad’s story gets across. She said to live doing what you love and to recognize the importance of organ donation.

Thompson’s family will hold a public memorial on Wednesday. A private ceremony will follow at a later date.

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