'The hardest year.' Charlotte couple moves to Nashville during pandemic for toddler's transplant

Dad commutes to N.C. to work as firefighter
Jackson Simpson 2
Posted at 6:14 PM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 23:24:38-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A family with a toddler expected the boy's liver transplant would keep them in Nashville for a few months, but this week marks one year.

"Jackson's case has been extremely challenging for our family," said Deonna Simpson. "This has probably been the hardest year of our life."

Deonna and Jeremy Simpson reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their two-year-old son had his transplant at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt on April 14, 2020.

"We're still in Nashville because Jackson frequents the hospital so much," said Jeremy Simpson. "His hospital visits have not been spaced out far enough that the liver team here is comfortable enough sending him back to Charlotte."

In the year since the transplant, the family has rented an apartment near the hospital so Jackson can be close to his doctors. Both parents have been able to continue working. Jeremy commutes and works as a firefighter several days a week in Charlotte and Deonna is able to work remotely as a student counselor.

"I think, on average, three weeks has been the longest we've been out of the hospital for the past year," Deonna said.

Because of the COVID-19 visitation restrictions that existed at Children's Hospital through March, many times just Deonna or Jeremy could be at their son's bedside.

Knowing and leaning on other families in similar situations helped.

"It just helps when you can walk by someone when you're running to the microwave to heat up some leftover food, that you can give a wink or smile or say 'hey, how are you doing?" Jeremy said.

Much like the pandemic, Jackson's recovery journey is taking longer expected. The Simpsons choose to let happiness be their primary emotion.

"Jackson is still here with us, and I think having that sense of gratitude and just being grateful for the moments we do have with him together as a family makes all the difference," Deonna said.

While the Simpsons are not from Nashville, both Deonna and Jeremy are graduates of MTSU and grew up in Memphis.