College Drop Out Bedridden For 11 Yrs, He Invented Surgery For His Unknown Disease & Cured Himself

Source: CNN

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In 1999, 21-year-old Doug Lindsay from Missouri, USA was an ambitious and spirited freshman at Rockhurst University, who dreamt of becoming a professor of Biochemistry someday or alternatively, a writer for ‘The Simpsons’. Lindsay had been a regular track athlete during his high school and would probably have continued the same in college, had tragedy not struck him so shockingly. 

His first day in college had been quite eventful. Little did he know that what dinnertime had in store for him. The same evening, Lindsay suddenly felt exceedingly dizzy and collapsed at the dining table. Helpless, he tried to stand up but felt intense fatigue overpowering his senses. That was how a prolonged ordeal of 11 years started for Lindsay. 

For the next decade and a year more, till 2011, Lindsay stayed bedridden. He was affected by one of the rarest health disorders which even acclaimed doctors failed to diagnose. As a result, no specific medication was administered to him and his condition showed little hope of improving. 

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The ‘Family Curse’

Incidentally, similar ailment patterns prevailed in the Lindsay family. His own mother had followed a trail of gradually weakening health. In fact, she had lost her ability to walk on her own when her son was barely four years old. She had also stayed bedridden most of her life, till her demise in 2016.

Lindsay’s aunt was a victim of the same strange family ailment which rendered her extremely weak, even incapable of tying her own shoelaces. When Lindsay also fell prey to the disease at the prime of his youth, his family inevitably referred to the condition as the ‘family curse’. Her mother had a vague idea that their condition was due to malfunctioning of thyroid hormones.

Lindsay knew he was the sole fighter in the battle with his life and nobody, other than himself, could help him in regaining normalcy. In college, he had taken up Biology as his major, which sadly he could not pursue as his health forced him to drop out. But, the zeal to get better thrived in his heart all along, even at a time when he was confined to his bed, day in and day out.

Pursuing Medical Research From His Bed

Armed with an iron determination, Lindsay immersed himself in full-time medical research from his bed, trying to find a cure for himself. He also regularly interacted with physicians from all domains of specialisation. Every physician or medical researcher were at their wit’s end with Lindsay’s condition. Frustrated, one of them even referred him to a psychiatrist.

When nothing else was working, Lindsay was casually glancing through the pages of an endocrinology book he had once picked up from near a trash can in his college. Little did he know that the answer to his biggest question was hidden there.

One particular section of the book briefly mentioned how malfunctions of adrenal glands can often be misconstrued as thyroid disorders due to similar symptoms. The idea struck Lindsay since thyroid treatment has always proven to be ineffective for their ‘family curse’. He continued delving deeper into adrenal gland disorders, browsing through his collection of vintage medical books and the internet.

Hundreds Of Scientists Dismissed Him, Only One Doctor Trusted Lindsay

Lindsay chanced upon the website of  National Dysautonomia Research Foundation whose research domain was aligned to his interest. Though their latest research outcomes failed to pinpoint Lindsay’s disease, he did learn a great deal about adrenal disorders and their manifestations, accelerating his personal research.

Now Lindsay sought a research partner from among experts in medical research. In that pursuit, he attended the annual conference of American Autonomic Society in South Carolina in 2002, after spending his last penny to buy tickets for an entire row in flight, because he had to lay across and fly.

The conference saw the attendance of the whos who of the global medical fraternity. In his speech at the event, Lindsay tried to convince everyone about his findings on his own ailment. Quite expectedly, most of the dignitaries brushed his claims aside, considering him a mere college dropout. But, Dr H.C. Coghlan from the University of Alabama-Birmingham met with him separately, expressing his faith in Lindsay’s research.

Finally Identifying His Rare Disease

Teaming up with Dr Coghlan, Lindsay continued his search for truth. He soon arrived at the conclusion that a continuous intravenous administration of noradrenaline will counter his excess adrenaline secretion. He convinced Dr Coghlan about the same, and stayed on a 24X7 noradrenaline drip for the next six years, through a major part of his twenties. This was a success, as it increased his energy levels and allowed him to be active around the house. Lindsay was seeing hope again.

He had long suspected a tumour in his adrenal glands was responsible for the disorder. But, his biopsy results and scan reports came negative. However, the fourth time his scan report had an unusual finding – his adrenal glands were ‘glowing brightly’.

That’s when Dr Coghlan finally identified his disease – bilateral adrenal medullary hyperplasia – a rare condition where adrenal glands behave as tumours without any malignancy. Globally, only 32 cases of the disease had been recorded since the inception of modern medicine.

From Being Bedridden To Holidaying In Bahamas

Unfortunately, there was no existent surgery to restore the adrenal glands to normalcy in such cases. But an adamant Lindsay wanted to ‘invent’ one for himself. He was iron-willed to get cured.

Lindsay again got absorbed into medical literature and case studies and identified few instances of similar surgery on animals. But, no surgeon of commendable repute was willing to risk their license by performing an unsolicited surgery. Finally, in September 2010, one surgeon from University of Alabama-Birmingham successfully extracted the danger element – the adrenal medulla from one of his glands.

Within weeks from the surgery, Lindsay could sit up again. Within a few months, he could walk easily for up to a mile. After a similar surgery on his other adrenal gland, he even vacationed in the Bahamas with his friends and even was allowed to discontinue a few of his medications.

Now A Motivational Speaker & Medical Consultant

Dr Coghlan passed away in 2015 after seeing Lindsay’s remarkable turnaround. In 2016, Lindsay lost his mother, as she was too frail to undergo a surgery like her son. Now, at 41 years of age, Doug Lindsay is a prominent motivational speaker and a medical consultant.

He still has to depend on nine medications per day. Yet, nothing can be more rewarding for Lindsay than being able to travel around the world and helping other distressed souls with little hopes to survive.

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

Source: CNN

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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