2017 began with a bang for my 21-year-old son, Dustin. He has always been an extreme sport participate and oddly had never been hospitalized. He spent the first six months of 2017 with a never-ending sinus problem that caused him breathing problems, and body aches and pains.
Then July hit, and he woke up with paralyzing pain throughout his body. It began in his knees then moved onto his neck, arms, and shoulders. Since I have #Fibromyalgia, I expected that he did too. Because he kept saying, “it feels like my bones are broken.” Something, I could relate to.
The pain was so bad that went to the emergency room three times in 10 days. Each time the doctors said that he just needed rest. So he went to see the family doctor. He saw immediately that Dustin was in pain. The first thing he did was a chest x-ray. It showed dual pneumonia. With the help of steroids, he was able to return to work, and he was given several antibiotics.
He passed out at work a few days later and was sent to the nearest hospital. He stayed there ten days. During that time he had multiple chest x-rays, bronchoscopies, and a lung biopsy. His lungs were bleeding. And as they rinsed the lungs, the blood would come right back. The bleeding was so bad that his heart was having trouble keeping up, so he was put on a heart monitor. He was hooked up to oxygen and given several blood transfusions and iron through an IV. The biopsy showed he had Human Parainfluenza Virus (HPIV). Another test showed that he also had pericarditis.
He was in the hospital for ten days, and during the last three, they told him he was probably going to die. He had just bought a house, started his dream job, and was having a baby. This wasn’t something any 21-year-old wants to hear. They couldn’t do anything more for him, so they sent him home after ten days. Armed with a load of medications and a binder of his stay, Dustin went home with much uncertainty about his life. He also left with a list full of diagnoses.
Within a week he’d lost even more color from his face, his chest was tight again, breathing hurt, his pains were back, he couldn’t lift his arms, and he had chills, a fever, and no appetite. Upon follow-up, Dustin was admitted to our local hospital.
The doctors performed some of the same tests as the former hospital and some new ones. The bleeding was still in his lungs, and so he was being treated for every symptom he had. The steroids made him look like a blowfish. The hospital started taking blood from him several times a day. They were looking for something autoimmune. Several days later the bloodwork came back positive for Wegener’s Disease, also known as, Wegener’s Granulomatosis. Or more frequently, Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. Wegener’s is the result of blood vessel inflammation, called “#Vasculitis” and can be seen mostly in the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys.
So Dustin’s weight loss, fever, fatigue, body aches and pains, persistent runny nose, coughing up of phlegm, and shortness of breath were all due to Wegener’s. The cause is not known, but the treatment involves chemotherapy medication given intravenously. The goal is to build up the immune system and to send the disease into remission.
Wegener’s is treatable, but it is not curable. If not caught early, Wegener’s will kill you. And sadly, it can affect anyone at any time. Though it’s usually found in people much older than Dustin.
Dustin will forever be on medication for pain and to build up his immune system so he doesn’t catch what everyone may have. Every six months he has Rituxin treatments once a week for two weeks. And each time he hopes he hopes it will be the last. He looks forward to remission even though he knows that his Wegener’s will never go away. He’ll need treatment for the rest of his life, which is a long time for someone so young.
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. John Hopkins Vasculitis Center. Retrieved from www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/types-vasculitis/granulomatosis-wi....
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/granulomatosis-with-p....
Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (GPA, formerly called Wegener’s). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/wegeners-granulomatosis.