Orange County, California
March of 1999 is when it all started. I was attending the Le Cordon Blue Culinary Academy in Pasadena, California. Over half way through my studies, I received a paper cut, and was infected with bad shrimp from another country. The infected shrimp got into my blood stream, and I came down with a horrible flu. Immediately, I was sent home from school and I went to see my general doctor. He diagnosed me with a bad case of the flu. I was told to stay out of school for a week and we would see how I felt at the end of the seven days.
The week past and I had the typical symptoms: fever, vomiting, fatigue, and migraine headaches which I had never experienced before. These headaches were extremely painful. Suddenly, I became so sensitive to light, (wearing sunglasses at night, and indoors) and loud noises. The light and noise brought on more severe headaches. I was beginning to think that this was more than just the flu. A second week had passed and then my life as I knew it started tumbling down. I suffered a minor stroke and was admitted to Mission Viejo Hospital. The doctors ran several tests and then decided to run a spinal tap on me. I was experiencing left sided pain as well as terrible back and neck pain. The doctors proceeded to do three spinal taps on me and one blood patch. Afterwards, the doctors told me I had dirty fluid and immediately I was sent to UCLA Medical Center. I saw the head Neurosurgeon and he diagnosed me with meningitis. He said there was possible swelling in the spine and brain. It was possible that the meningitis was caused by the shellfish getting into my bloodstream. The doctor suggested I check into a pain rehabilitation center and begin treatment immediately.
I had heard of meningitis but I didn’t know a lot about the disease. As time passed I lost the ability of my lower extremities. I was told that it took almost six months to diagnose me and the damage had been done. This was very difficult to swallow. Unfortunately, I had to leave the culinary academy and begin pain management in Newport Beach, California. I started with physical rehabilitation, bio feedback, and psychology. These stages of pain rehabilitation were protocol. I was told this was to be an eight week program. At this point I was frustrated that I was not able to walk on my own. I did benefit from some stages of the program, but I was still suffering from the same symptoms.
The true blessing in all of this was my family and friends. We tend to forget this changes your families lives also. I can’t imagine going through this alone without their support.
I was still not healing, so I was sent to Del Mar, California, to a man named Pete Egoscue. Pete is a war veteran who lost his lower extremities and was told by doctors that he would never walk again. He created his own method called the ‘Egoscue Method,’ which is related to spinal alignment and waking up nerves and muscles. I had several sessions with Pete. He was famous for helping Jack Nicklaus, and other famous athletes. Pete taught me to walk again using a walker, and my posture was much better, although I still had limited mobility. Pete brought me into his office and told me that I was still extremely sick and weak. He referred me to a immunologist in Mexico.
My parents and I set up an appointment, and we went across the border into Mexico where we met Dr. William Hytt. Dr. Hytt graduated from the University of Illinois and specialized in immunology. He is well known for helping Los Angeles Lakers star, Magic Johnson with his H.I.V. Dr. Hytt used to practice medicine in the United States with a treatment called “Ozone Therapy” which back in the 1950’s, was practiced on children with cancer and was proven to kill cancer.
Unfortunately, this practice has been banned from the United States. This was very painful to hear. Dr. Hytt drew my blood and looked at the sample under a scope. He then showed this to my parents. Dr Hytt said, “In this scope you will see white which are good healthy cells, blue cells which are allergens, and red cells which are the bad cell (viruses in my body.) My parents looked into the scope and my blood was covered with blue and red, and hardly any white. Dr. Hytt took off his glasses and said that this blood sample contained the most viruses and allergens he had ever seen. He told me that these viruses may have been in my body since birth but we had to act fast to heal my body.
That same day, I started “Ozone Therapy.” The procedure is not a pleasant one. They take 100 cc’s of blood out of your body, and then inject the OZONE (liquid gas) back into your blood, then inject it into your body. This then kills the bad viral cells, and at the same time, creates a new immune system. I did this treatment over and over for forty straight days in a row. The treatments took about two hours. Also, they gave me URINE injections. They culture your own urine, and then pump it back into your body. This helps your system attain more energy and balance. I continued these procedures for a year. These treatments seemed to build my immune system back a bit, but Dr. Hytt didn’t want my body to become immune to the OZONE, so the treatments had to dissipate. I am happy to have seen Dr. Hytt. I don’t think I would be in this position without him.
I was back home and going to physical rehabilitation and pool rehabilitation. I started doing this three days a week and my body was feeling much better this time. During this period of time, I met a beautiful lady named Michelle Howard. This lady was just what I needed. I had such a difficult time wanting to talk to anyone and was depressed. Michelle helped me get through that. We dated for sixteen months. On Valentine’s Day 2004, I proposed to Michelle aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. Michelle said, “YES!” We were married on September 19, 2004 in Laguna Beach, California. My parents and siblings had taken great care of me. This would now be a big step for both of us, yet Michelle picked the baton up right where they had left it and has become the best caretaker ever! She truly is my heart, soul and my rock. To make a long story short, meningitis has changed my life from my wife having to leave her job, to taking me to doctors all over the country, in order to get me healthier. We have been from U.C.L.A. Medical Center, to Mexico, to Scottsdale Mayo Clinic, to Rochester, Minnesota Mayo Clinic. This journey has changed our lives. In March of 2006, I started working at Silver Rock Resort in La Quinta, California. This job has been the best medicine for me. I don’t have time to think about my illness and how much pain I’m in from day to day. At my resort, we have a disability cart called, “SOLO RIDER.” This cart was made for golfers with disabilities. I started to use it thanks to my wife, Michelle. She has always encouraged me to at least give golf a try. I would take the solo rider out to the driving range and hit a few balls. I had been competitive in golf prior to being diagnosed with meningitis. It had been ten years since I had hit a ball. After long talks with my wife, family, friends, doctors, I decided to take a negative and turn it into a positive, by having a golf tournament at my golf course, SILVER ROCK, to give back to meningitis causes. Michelle and I started looking around and found the Meningitis Foundation of America. We got into touch with the President, Kelly Madison, and decided we wanted to educate people about meningitis. In 2007, we started, “STEWS SHOOTOUT,” at Silver Rock, benefiting the MFA. 2010 will be our third year and we’re blessed to say that’s the tournament is growing and becoming bigger and better as the years go on. Our goal is to bring awareness to meningitis and my personal goal is to educate and talk to people about the disease and how to live a productive life when diagnosed with meningitis. I’m very excited to be a part of this team and want to make this foundation grow and bring as much awareness to meningitis as we can. Our slogan is, “EDUCATE AND VACINATE.” I was elected to the Board of Directors in January of 2010. I look forward to talking to doctors about meningitis as well as speaking publicly about the disease.
Once again want to thank my wife, Michelle, my entire family, all of our friends, for their love, prayers, and support, as well as a special thank you to Caroline Petrie, and Kelly Madison for bringing us on board the MFA.
I still battle meningitis each day. Some days are good, others are bad, but I want to educate people and let them know that you can live a wonderful life with meningitis. With the help of family, friends, and medical professionals, we will conquer this disease. It’s an everyday struggle that we can still win, and will.