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Lawrence Co. sheriff in hospital

Officials said Lawrence County Sheriff Joel Thames is resting inserious condition at University Medical Center Friday aftercollapsing in his home Thursday morning.

Thames was found by his son, who could not wake him for workThursday and called an ambulance, said Undersheriff Willie Wallace.Office Deputy Sandra Wallace said sheriff’s department officialswere told Thames had collapsed because he couldn’t breathe due toswelling of his throat.

“We just don’t know a lot other than that he got to where hecouldn’t breathe and wasn’t getting enough air from swelling in histhroat,” she said. “He had difficulty talking this week, and whenhe went to the doctor they thought it was laryngitis.”

She said Thames came to during the ambulance trip and that he wassedated to be flown by helicopter to UMC. He was first listed incritical condition, but has since been upgraded to serious.”

Willie Wallace said Thames has a history of throat cancer, but mostrecently it has been in remission.

“He has had throat problems over the years, and radiation forthroat cancer back several years ago, and that kind of messed histhroat up,” Willie Wallace said. “But I believe he just had ayearly checkup and he was cancer-free.”

Sheriff’s department officials said Thames will undergo testing andblood work over the next few days to ascertain exactly why histhroat closed off.

“He’s doing some better,” said Willie Wallace. “His condition isupgraded and he’s communicating by writing.”

Hopes are, said Lawrence County officials, that the episode wassimply caused by irritation from Thames’ bout with laryngitisearlier in the week. However, nothing would be official until thetests are complete.

“They’ll do tests today, and they’re going to go in there and lookand see what closed his throat and his air passage off,” saidWillie Wallace. “He had laryngitis real bad, but we didn’t know ifthat’s why his bronchial tubes closed. We’ll know more latertoday.”

Thames is serving his third term as Lawrence County Sheriff.