Timothy Hesson, a third-year civil engineering student who died of heart failure on April 13, 2018 was remembered as a passionate gamer and hiker during a memorial service at NJIT last week. The service was organized by Dean Marybeth Boger and the Hesson family. Students, teachers, faculty, and family came to pay their respects and share memories of the life that Tim lived.
“In the last couple weeks, thanks to the family and many of his close friends, I came to know him really well”, Boger said. “I got a sense of his spirit. I’m happy to hear the stories about Tim. I’m honored to be here to hear more about the reflections of Tim’s life.”
Hesson died of sudden arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat and can disrupt the effective pumping of oxygenated blood. Hesson’s heart failure did not come as a total surprise; he dealt with a congenital heart syndrome for 21 years.
Suzanne Hesson, Timothy’s mother, explained: Timothy was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) the day after he was born, meaning the left side of his heart did not develop properly in utero. He had 3 open heart surgeries in the first three years of his life, the first of which happened only a week after he was born.
“It was the only thing we thought about,” she said, recounting the first years of his life with HLHS. “The pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon had to reroute his plumbing, so he could use the right ventricle to pump blood to his body. He turned the pulmonary artery into the aorta and opened up a passage between the atria, so that the oxygenated blood would flow freely between the atria.” According to the National Institute of Health, infants diagnosed with HLHS have a high mortality rate. However, if they survive childhood, individuals with HLHS are usually ‘in the clear’.
Raphael Cobarrubias, a third-year civil engineering major, did not get to know Hesson until sophomore year in statics class. While Hesson did mention his heart, Cobarrubias said, he always made it seem like a thing of the past, and did not let on how severe the situation actually was. “I knew him as a friend, I knew him as a dormer, I knew him as a classmate. He was blessed with 21 years… we were blessed with 21 years.”
When asked how he was holding up, Cobarrubias said he is dealing with the death much better than when he first heard the news. “When you’re at that point, you’re at that stage of nothingness where you don’t know how to feel. Once I went to the wake, [it was] all just a big acceptance at [that] point.”
While at the memorial, a representative from the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (C-CAPS) offered condolences and reminded students that counseling services are available for those in grieving and in need of someone to talk to. A takeaway from Cobarrubias when dealing with grief is to “never say goodbye, cause if you don’t, he’s not really gone, he’s just not here at the moment.”
Michael Mejia, a digital design major, had been friends with Hesson for three years and met him during freshmen orientation, one of the first people he met here at NJIT. In Mejia’s freshman year they were neighbors and would spend time together gaming, watching movies and TV shows, and ‘weebing out’. Hesson was an avid gamer, Darksouls and Overwatch being two of his favorites.
“He loved small indie games, he would try a new one every week,” he recalled.
Meija recounted introducing Hesson to Berserk, an anime known for exploring the themes of isolation and camaraderie, and for the characters’ discussing what it means to struggle. “Just watching that character development really spoke to Tim, about changing yourself and not succumbing to the world,” Mejia said.
While Hesson tended to keep to himself, Mejia said, once you got to know him, he was great company and an even greater friend.
Hesson was born in Summit and grew up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He is survived by his parents Joseph and Suzanne, his brother Kevin, and his sister Caitlin.
Timothy Hesson will be loved, cherished, and missed. For those who wish, a donation can be made to the American Heart Association in his memory.