By Lee White
One of my journalism teachers told me never to begin a piece of writing by apologizing, but I’m making an exception this time. A week ago, I removed all content from this blog and shut down the Twitter and Facebook pages. This I did with no public explanation and for that, I’m truly sorry. I owed my readers better than that.
Although a certain incident involving a non-profit corporation and Gov. Laura Kelly’s staff may have precipitated this move and my withdrawal as a candidate for El Dorado City Commission, something far worse has occurred since then. My wife, Sherri, who has battled multiple sclerosis for the past 13 years, learned on Tuesday that her heart isn’t pumping strongly enough. She’s not in congestive heart failure, but her ejection fraction is far too low for someone her age.
Sherri is scheduled for a heart catheterization at Wesley Medical Center next week. That will tell us whether a blocked coronary artery (i.e. a heart attack) damaged the heart or whether it was something else. That “something else” might be one or a combination of the MS disease-modifying drugs she has taken. There is published research showing one drug has a history of weakening the heart muscle.
Everything in life carries risks — especially these medications, which are essentially chemotherapy. Sherri has resisted taking these drugs as much as possible, but there have been a couple of times when her disease was dangerously active, tearing away the lining of nervous tissue in the brain and spinal cord, and she believed there was no other choice.
MS is one of those diseases that doesn’t kill a patient outright; rather, they die of “complications.” One of Sherri’s neurologists when we lived in California warned her that patients sometimes die of heart attacks because they attribute the pain to their usual MS symptoms and don’t ask for help. Indeed, Sherri suffers daily from severe upper back pain and a feeling of constriction around the chest and back known as “MS hug.”
Fatigue is also a major issue for MS patients, so when Sherri started dealing with increased tiredness in late 2016, we blamed it on a worsening of her disease. Her doctor tried a prescription called amantadine that works as a stimulant. It didn’t help and Sherri, ironically being concerned about a family history of heart problems, didn’t want to try a more traditional stimulant such as Provigil.
Prior to a hysterectomy in January, the surgeon casually mentioned that the EKG picked up a posterior myocardial infarction — a heart attack. Sherri told him she hadn’t had any symptoms of a heart attack and he attributed the finding to unreliability of automated EKGs. Nonetheless, we decided to mention it to her new primary physician, Dr. Bon Nola, in February, along with the fact that a cardiologist had diagnosed her with a benign arrhythmia in 2011. I’m so glad Dr. Nola sent us to Dr. Gaurav Tyagi, the cardiologist who conducted the tests that led to Tuesday’s diagnosis.
Last week, I had planned to put our house on the market and move back to the Kansas City area, which is where Sherri’s only immediate family member, Vicki, her sister, lives. All my family except for Sherri is gone. Now, due to the excellent health care Sherri has received and the accessibility features we had installed in our home when we moved here last June, we’ve decided to remain in El Dorado.
Because of Sherri’s condition, however, I believe it’s best to put Watchdog on “pause” for awhile so that I can devote my undivided attention to her care. At her insistence, I will try to update the page as best I can, but I will step away at least temporarily from regular reporting duties. I will endeavor to keep the obituaries page updated on a regular basis and apologize for letting that slide the past week.
Although many hours of research and writing went into creating content for this blog, I’m glad some of it won’t be returning. Many of you know that Watchdog began as an effort to get a friend of mine elected sheriff in 2016. Having been “on the ground” in Butler County for almost a year, however, I have been favorably impressed with our sheriff’s department. I enjoy a good relationship with Sheriff Kelly Herzet and Undersheriff Tony Wilhite. I wish them well going forward.
I also produced quite a bit of material concerning Rep. Kristey Williams’ so-called “fair funding” initiative. Although I fear that deep budget cuts at Butler Community College would have a negative economic impact on the county as a whole and El Dorado in particular, I appreciate Williams’ kindness to me the past week. It was also nice to meet Sen. Ty Masterson and his wife at the Farm Bureau legislative coffee in Andover recently. I wish them all the best in the upcoming legislative wrap-up session.
Finally, I’d like to thank everyone at the City of El Dorado who has been supportive of me during this turn of events, particularly Clerk Tabitha Sharp, Mayor Vince Haines, and Commissioners Matt Guthrie and Kendra Wilkinson. I would have absolutely hated running against Kendra had it come to that and I’m glad it won’t. Should she run again this year, I’ll certainly vote for her. El Dorado has some challenges to be sure. They may not be met as swiftly as I would choose, but I’m confident that they will be met.
Finally, I thank you, gentle reader, for following this crazy blogger the past few years. I hope I’ll be back at it in some form or fashion soon. Sherri has surprised me before, most notably with her swift recovery from a serious car crash in 2014. I’ll be sure to keep everyone updated on her progress and appreciate your thoughts and prayers as we tackle this latest challenge.