Actually this story isn’t about the impossible, but overcoming the odds. (Too much like gambling) I just figured that the title ‘Overcoming the Impossible’ would catch your attention more. But what do I know; you’re the one reading this.
My story started three and a half years ago when I got bit by a mosquito; a pretty typical summer where I’m from (Southern Alberta). I felt nothing at the time, but a week later I was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for a conference for my job, I started getting massive headaches and throwing up every few hours. I just thought I had a bad flu. Sitting in the conference I could barely bring my glass of water to my lips without uncontrollably shaking. I just remember thinking I must have looked like I was on drugs.
Then it came time for me to fly back to Calgary. I was quickly getting worse. I could barely walk in a straight line. I looked very drunk (I don’t know how security let me through). By then I knew there was something wrong with me but I just had to get home.
When I got home a friend drove me to my parents, where I stayed for about a week. Remember that I still thought it was just a bad flu and besides the shaking, I didn’t think it wasn’t anything I couldn’t get over. After all I was a very active, athletic person. I thought I was invincible.
A week later, my mom (half walking) carried me into Emergency, where a doctor (Dr. Cobus Groballar) just by looking into my eyes, could see the pressure of my brain pushing on the blood vessels in the back of my eyes. He immediately admitted me. They tested me for the West Nile virus but lost the blood sample and by the time they figured out it was lost; it was too late to test again. By then they thought it was something worse.
I was quickly transferred to the Foothills Hospital neurology ward, in Calgary, where they could do a MRI scan. In fact, I had eight of them.
It turned out it was an autoimmune disease that was causing brain and spinal cord damage. My own body was attacking itself. It was attacking the part of my brain responsible for coordination; I looked very drunk with severe coordination problems, double vision, slurred speech and hypersensitive hands. I could stand but not without help and not for more than a few seconds. In two short months I had gone from a very active person to being bound to a wheelchair. I had also gone from 180 pounds (82 kilos) to 118 pounds (53 kilos) and I was 6’3”. I was so skinny, I had something hard in my bicep and I remember asking the doctor what is that? He said, “It’s your bone.” I was in total shock.
On a hunch the doctors thought they could stop my condition from getting worse by using an unproven treatment called Apheresis. The process involved pumping my blood into a centrifuge and separating the plasma from my blood and putting it back with new plasma. I had 28 treatments and each treatment used 15 bottles of donated blood plasma. I used 420 blood plasma donations. Wow that was a lot, please give blood.
To do the treatment they put a tube in my neck that went down to my heart so they could drain some of my blood and separate it. They had me on blood thinner, the place in my neck where the tube was, bled for days. I remember lying in bed and it was entirely covered in a big pool of blood and a nurse came in and freaked out. I said I was okay, don’t worry about it. She said, “Not on my watch, I’m not going to leave you in a bed covered in blood.” You see what I didn’t realize you can feel the act of bleeding; it’s only when you put pressure on the place you’re bleeding from does it hurt. That’s the type of thing you don’t think of unless you have experienced it yourself.
I remember standing in the washroom at the hospital, washing my hands struggling to spread the soap on my hands, thinking to myself, “Why is this so hard.” It wasn’t long after that I could not stand and I had limited use of my hands.
It worked though, it saved my life. I wasn’t getting worse but it had left me in pretty bad shape. I had severe coordination problems, double vision, slurred speech, hypersensitive hands and I would be in a wheelchair for a long time.
All that made for a lot of change, but I was alive. In the fall of 2008, I went to Tijuana, Mexico for a Stem Cell Treatment, in hopes it would bring me back to normalcy. In the end it had no effect. Stem Cells still need more research, I have no doubt that one day I will become somewhat normal, but it’s not at that point yet.
I’m not able to work, I can’t even feed myself. I still need a reason in life, a purpose to get out of bed in the morning, so I started iPhone Development. I am learning programming and until I master it I use freelancers. I have created my first game entirely using Skype and email. Because of my hypersensitive hands I can only tolerate my laptop keyboard for a few hours at a time. I have made great use of the smooth touchscreen of the iPhone and iPad. I only use my laptop for the few things the iPad cannot do like xcode, photoshop, flash and zipped files.
I have overcome a lot to create this game. As bad as my story may be, from my time in the hospital, there’s always someone else that is going through something worse. I hope my story provides you some inspiration.
Some of the freelancers I work with have said, “If I hadn’t told them I was disabled, they wouldn’t be able to tell.”
So I hope my story is a good example of no matter what life throws at you, you can still achieve great things.
Latest posts by Rob McCrady (see all)
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