At the Orchard Feb. 14
Sopris Sun Staff Report
Renee Maggert, a 27-year resident of Carbondale, first started noticing symptoms at least two years ago: fatigue when hiking or rafting, not as strong as in the past, weight loss and more. Today, she suffers from double vision and cannot drive; she has also moved in with friends because she often chokes when eating or swallowing; if her weight drops to 88 pounds she’ll have to use a feeding tube.
Maggert’s COBRA insurance expired recently and she faces mountains of medical bills. To help her out, friends have organized a sweetheart dinner and dance at the Orchard from 6 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 14 (see the ad on page five for details).
Kim Velasquez, who is helping to organize the event, said her kids went to school with Maggert’s. They and a few others were always at Roaring Fork High School serving and preparing food for sports teams. “But Renee was the person the coaches and teachers would call. If they needed someone to organize and get the job done, she was always eager to help,” Velasquez said.
Continuing, Velasquez said “Until recent years, she (Maggert) has always been the giver and not on the recipient end. We believe this is the reason that she waited so long to share her health issues with others. Our hope is that the wonderful people in our valley will rally around her and help her out in any way possible.”
In a December posting to friends on Facebook, Maggert said she had a physical last year and her ANA (autoimmune) count was “extremely” elevated but other than some “irritating” innocuous symptoms, all the blood work came back in the “normal” range. “A high ANA count can be asymptomatic for years,” she said on Facebook.
Last September her fatigue increased, her mobility was not as fluid as it should be, she was losing weight “and frankly I look like hell.” Dr. Gary Knaus sent Maggert to a pulmonologist who was “underwhelmed” with her symptoms and referred her to a neurologist. “Again all was normal.”
Next up was a muscular neurologist “ … he wasn’t impressed with my symptoms either.”
A muscle biopsy was sent to the Mayo Clinic but the doctor there could find nothing to confirm a diagnosis. From there she saw a rheumatologist who could not support Maggert’s diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder.
“So by process of elimination and shear desire to do something to make me feel better, I am on a course of steroids and an immune inhibitor. I do not have the type of autoimmune conditions that damage the organs and my prognosis is that I will regain most of my muscle mass, experience improved mobility and even some weight gain Never in my life have I hoped to gain weight!”
Currently, choking and being able to eat are perhaps Maggert’s most serious problems. Her esophageal muscles are weak. When she swallows or swallows food she doesn’t aspirate so her lungs are not affected. Instead, when she chokes on food or liquid it can go up and out her nose. “It’s like blowing guacamole out my nose … it’s not a pretty sight.” She estimates she chokes like this about 60 percent of the time, which is actually down from about 75 percent since she started on one of her drugs.
A bright spot in Maggert’s situation is that she has been accepted into National Jewish Hospital in Denver and recently learned she’s eligible for Medicaid.
She concludes her Facebook posting in part, “I guess it takes an experience like this to become humble enough to walk in another’s shoes. I am learning to say thank you and accept with grace and gratitude. Perhaps that is the lesson I needed to learn in this. … I do appreciate all the positive thoughts and prayers. With great love and wishing you all great health — Renee.”