Friday, November 30, 2007

Rick's plight

Lupus is a “woman’s disease” occurring in women 10 – 15 times more frequently than in men. However, Rick Kahle is one such man. Lupus began to appear in him somewhere around the age of 35; he was diagnosed when he was 39.

Rick was a family man, raising a young daughter with his wife and working full time in the entertainment industry. When his daughter was 10 months old, he awoke one morning with flu-like symptoms. Two weeks passed and that “flu” did not get any better. In fact, it worsened. The symptoms progressed to night sweats and confusion and loss of appetite. It took 10 days in the hospital for doctors to finally put a name to what the trouble was. It was Lupus. A steroid treatment was ordered and Rick recovered in about a month.

Although he suffered another flare-up a year and a half later, no one expected what would happen just three years after that. Rick again developed the “flu.” This flu led to extremely high fevers and confusion and, subsequently, another trip to the hospital. The doctors worked to reduce the fever and get a handle on the lupus attack that was killing him. Nothing seemed to work. In a “last-ditch” attempt to stop the attack, a steroid, Solu-Medrol, was administered. Instead of a dose of 60mg, (the highest amount that Rick’s body can handle), he was given 1000mg at three different times. His body began to react by bringing on a seizure, a seizure that lasted for nearly five days. In an effort to halt the seizure he had to be placed into a coma and on life support. Five and a half weeks passed before the doctors could successfully bring him out of that coma.

Rick spent 110 days in the hospital recovering. He experienced all kinds of medical treatments during that time from a tracheostomy to a “PEG” (a feeding tube placed into the stomach). He had dialysis and chemotherapy. He had a state-of-the-art breathing machine that was new in America, having been tried and proven successful in Great Britain.

But many times during the hospital stay his family was told there was no hope. The doctors felt that too much brain damage had been suffered during the 5-day seizure. When Rick awoke from his coma he believed it was 1979 (nearly 20 years earlier).

He had lost the last 20 years of his life. He didn’t even recognize his wife. He had to relearn how to speak again, walk again and even how to swallow food again. The one thing that was not robbed from him was the acknowledgement of his young daughter. He seemed to know her right away. And Rick’s long hospital stay was the hardest on her. His daughter celebrated her 6th birthday at the hospital so she could be near her daddy. He was unable to attend the party, having taken a turn for the worst right before it.

After 110 days in the hospital and an additional 49 more spent at his mother’s house recouperating, Rick came home to his family in San Dimas. He came home in a wheelchair but he progressed to a walker, a cane and eventually to unassisted walking. He watched his wedding video over and over again until the players all began to come back into his memory. It has been a long, long recovery but a rewarding one. Rick triumphed over insurmountable odds. Lupus caused his long ordeal but did not defeat him. Although he is now considered “in remission,” his family and he still take every precaution against an unrelenting disease, Lupus.

Rick cannot spend any time in the sun without wearing a big hat and being slathered in sunscreen, yet he and his family just returned from a Hawaiian vacation. He always needs extra rest and lots of loving support and he takes 22 pills daily to keep the disease under control. Lupus may have robbed Rick of a carefree existence but he has returned to a pretty normal life.

And although he cannot work he is proud to be the best stay-home dad around!

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