VF in the News

George’s Story

My name is George.  How can a broken neck sustained when your car flips over after hitting a guard rail at 70 miles per hour, lead to the best days of your life?  It’s called an early diagnosis of Wegener’s Granulomatosis!  The day after I retired in July 1999, I found myself like a turtle up-side-down on its back.  It was 2:00 AM, the road was dark, my wife’s Honda Accord was stopped on its roof, in the middle of I-70 near Vail, Colorado. The car had rolled over, the battery was tossed out on the pavement, no lights or power illuminated the car.  I was stuck inside, upside down held in place by the seat belt.  All I could think was my wife is really going to be mad at me for wrecking her car!

The first person to drive by the crash scene, just minutes after the accident, was a Colorado State Trooper.  Thank God!  He checked on me, protected the scene and called the rescue squad to free me from the car.  I was taken to the local Vail hospital where x-rays showed I had a fracture at C6–C7 in my neck.  There was no neurosurgeon available so I was stabilized and taken to Denver for treatment.

As part of the admission procedure at the hospital, a routine chest x-ray was ordered.  The lungs were dotted with dark unknown black spots.  The doctors told my wife it could be cancer.  They questioned if I had ever worked with asbestos or maybe just returned from Borneo after kissing monkeys. No clue what was wrong.  To cut the story short here, a young female Rheumatologist came up with the idea: Wegener’s Granulomatosis!  Sure enough, after a needle biopsy it was confirmed.

The neck was repaired by fusing C6-C7 together with a plate, screws and a bone graft from my hip. The Rheumatologist wanted to keep me hospitalized and start immediate IV Cytoxan treatment for the Wegener’s.  She was overruled by the neurologist who felt the healing of the neck would be jeopardized if treatment for Wegener’s started before 8 weeks.  I was flown to my new home in San Diego to start my retirement.

The story continues 8 weeks after the crash.  My neck was healed enough to start treatment for Wegener’s.  After seeing a few doctors who “did not have a clue” what the best course of action would be, I met with Rheumatologist Dr. Robert Fox. He was familiar with the disease and has been my treating physician for the last 13 years.  Under his watchful eye, I have been in remission for most of my illness.  One of his favorite questions at the start of my exam is, “what do you want to do, that you can’t do?”  I have been happy to tell him I do everything I ever wanted to do and more.  There are no restrictions!  My retirement goal of playing golf 3 times a week in sunny San Diego, California has become reality.

Now for the real point of my little story:  How could I show my thanks for the extreme good fortune I have enjoyed in my life?  I decided to let my golf sticks help me.  For every birdie or eagle I make during my golf game, I make a donation to our church’s music fund.  I also vowed to make a donation to the Vasculitis Foundation of $20 every time I “chip-in” from off the green during a round.

It amounts to several hundred dollars a year and expresses my good fortune in life.  Do you have a similar story of good fortune?  I hope you can find a way to help the Vasculitis Foundation as I have done.

Published:  May 2013

To read more stories, please visit the Vasculitis Stories landing page.