Mysterious illness doesn’t dampen hope
July 17, 2009
David Green drinks Americanos at the Local Grind café near Heber City’s Main Street nearly every day. And nearly every day, a cadre of companions, made up mostly of his teenage son’s friends, greets him on the porch.
They deliver his coffee with little notes "We love you!" meant to brighten his mood.
In turn, Green keeps the group entertained with jokes and friendly banter. "They keep my caffeine level high," he said. "Otherwise I’m a limp jellyfish."
And although they chat about the ordinary stuff of life, an awareness of Green’s mysterious illness, his fragility and waning health, permeates the conversation.
The 51 year old suffers from a degenerative neurological malady that has left him in a wheelchair, nearly immobile. Tremors cause his head to bob, and the fine motor skills in his hands are impaired. His speech is garbled and slow. He can still sip coffee, but he must do so from a plastic bottle, using both hands to grip as though they were salad tongs. Even manipulating a laptop is almost impossible and, thanks to the head bob, so is reading.
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the Green’s account, the medical establishment is baffled. Despite exams by 30 different doctors, including specialists at the University of Utah, and an eye-watering battery of spinal taps, blood tests, CAT and bone scans. Green’s condition remains undiagnosed, and largely untreated, since he first showed symptoms in the middle of September.
It’s not Parkinson’s. It’s not Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
All Green knows is that he loses a little bit every day.
Less than a year ago, Green enjoyed near-perfect health. He spent his days hiking, biking and kayaking. For work, Green was as a professional art framer and has owned shops in Park City and Kamas. His family knew him to be full of vigor, rarely sick. "I was as healthy and strong as most 30 year olds," he said.
Then one morning in September, Green woke up feeling sick. He called his brother, Steven, to complain about flu-like symptoms. "I had a fever without the heat," Green recalled. "I was super tired and disoriented."
Within a few weeks, Green was unable to walk and had to drag himself around the house. By October, he had been admitted to the hospital for a five-week stint and could move around only in a wheelchair.
Green currently takes about 10 different prescription medications and has turned, in recent weeks, to less traditional approaches that focus on his diet. In June, Coda Gallery hosted a reception to raise money for Green to attend an alternative clinic in California. So far, nothing has slowed the progression of the disease or lessened its symptoms.
"Western medicine has completely failed me," Green said in a rare but telling show of frustration. "The only thing they’re trained to do is give prescriptions."
Still, Green is hopeful. He receives nurses and a physical therapist in his house, but he said friends and family are by far his best antidote. "I feel really hopeful," he said. "I feel like my cure is going to be more spiritual than medical."
In other words, Green said, "I think, I believe, I am going to get up and walk away," he said. "I need to get off my ass and become a more compassionate person."
At the Local Grind, Green described a recent dream. He was on a street that very much resembled Park City’s Main Street, giving away delicious chocolate. The symbolism of the exercise was twofold for Green. The first lesson was to become a more giving person.
And the second?
"I’m going to be a chocolatier," Green explained.