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Man enlists 'family' to fight his paralysis

by ELLYSA GONZALEZ Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on September 10, 2013 11:00 AM

LUBBOCK, Texas — David Moseley had never needed special medical attention. He’d never needed MRIs or other medical tests. He likes to travel, play sports and stay active.

So when the Lubbock man began having frequent pains in his arms, back and neck accompanied with head-aches, he and his family were surprised to learn of his diagnosis — chiari malformation.

Extended hospital stays to treat the disease earned David an extended family that neither party could have imagined would form.

“It is a congenital malformation,” Syamala Chekuru, medical rehab physician at Covenant Health, told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

People affected by the disease are usually born with it or develop it after a traumatic incident, David said. It is commonly detected at birth or when patients undergo MRI procedures. In his case, he was born with it.

At 29, his symptoms began to flare stronger than usual. David said he never got headaches and all of a sudden, he had constant, severe ones.

Billye Moseley, his sister, said he was beginning to lose use of the right side of his body when he “finally” took his mother’s advice and scheduled a doctor’s appointment in August 2011.

The doctor looked David over and scheduled tests and scans. Results showed what the doctor had already suspected — David had chiari malformation, Billye said.

“In his words that day, he said to us, ‘this is bad. Pretty much any cases that are in medical books should be thrown out and your picture should be put in,’” Billye said of the doctor’s evaluation.

The doctor told David he needed surgery.

“He (David) said, ‘What happens if I wait?’” Billye said. “They said, ‘Do you know what a quadriplegic is?’”

A surgical spinal decompression was scheduled less than a month later at Covenant Health System. His first surgery was in September 2011. Symptoms persisted and further surgery was required.

David and Billye’s mother died in December a few days before Christmas and after David’s third surgery.

After each procedure, Billye said her brother went through an extended recovery time and walked out of the hospital when he was medically released — until his fourth procedure in January to remove spinal fluid at the top of David’s spinal cord.

The procedure left David with no movement in his arms and legs and paralyzed vocal cords that prevented him from speaking, Billye said. This time, his stay lasted 222 days, Billye said, before his release to Crown Point Health Suites: Orthopedic Rehab Center.

“I spent three months in the hospital and four months in rehab,” David said.

The unusually extended stay brought the siblings closer, distance-wise and emotionally.

“We’ve always been close,” Billye said.

Of their mother’s seven kids, Billye was fourth born and David was sixth born.

A couple of months after her brother’s hospital admittance, Billye left her home in San Antonio to stay with her younger brother in Lubbock, becoming part of an extended hospital family.

“He has always been the class clown,” Billye said of her brother. “Everybody likes him.”

This proved true while at the hospital too, Billye said. During his stay, David developed a close relationship with his care team of nurses and therapists.

“I don’t grow very close to patients because I don’t like feeling the way we felt with David,” said Connie Lopez, charge nurse on West 4 Rehab at Covenant Health.

Lopez said she’s known David since after his first surgery in 2011 and has watched him fight for his life, at times.

“He fought and fought and fought,” she said. “He did all his therapy. He was amazing, considering what he’d been through. This fourth one, when I saw him after his surgery, I was heartbroken. I didn’t know if he would make it out of this one.”

Lopez and other nurses watched as David was moved from their rehab unit to an intensive care unit and back.

“I would go visit him in ICU,” she said. “He became family.”

Beverly Brown, physical therapist at Covenant Health, said David has been an inspiration for her and several other nurses. He became a great friend to confide in during his stay.

“One day a nurse ran right past me into his room,” Billye said. “She got to him and she said ‘My daughter got all A’s.’ They became more than just nurses. One nurse invited me to Sunday dinner. She even brought her kids up to meet him.”

Lopez said David’s stay was one of the factors that led to uncommon friendships with his care team.

“They (patients) stay there for weeks at a time,” Lopez said. “For David, it had been months.”

David is currently in a motorized wheelchair and has a tracheostomy tube inserted in his throat that allows him to speak softly.

In physical therapy, David has learned how to make as much use of his body as he can.

Billye said he has less than a month left in the rehab facility before his insurance caps. Until then, the siblings are searching for alternatives to remain close to his medical family, she said.

When David moved from Covenant to Crown Point, nurses and therapists who helped treat him during his hospital stay threw him a farewell party and helped move his stuff from the hospital to his suite at Crown Point.

“We just all started crying,” Lopez said. “He had gifts that people would bring him, posters, all kinds of stuff,” Lopez said. “He had all kinds of arts and crafts.”

Lopez said many members of his Covenant Health care team continue to visit him at the other facility.

“I’m sure we will,” Lopez said when asked if the “family” would continue to visit David if he chose to move back to Carlsbad. “We had amazing times. Everybody knows and loves him.”

David said he’d eventually like to resume his active lifestyle.

“I’m not going to be in the chair forever,” he said.

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