Published On: Mon, Jul 6th, 2015

KU senior tells story of battle with Dermatomyositis, a rare disease where less than 2000 people suffer

As journalist Sierra Upton notes in a recent YouTube report: “Imagine if you had to wear a hat, a sweatshirt, pants and sunscreen just to walk down the block. Now imagine that you could only be outside for 10 minutes at a time”.

Dermatomyositis/TJ Henderson

Dermatomyositis/TJ Henderson

Upton describes the day-to-day life of Kansas University senior, Thomas “TJ” Henderson.

Henderson is living the life of someone with the rare, life-changing, skin and muscular disease known as Dermatomyositis. The disease affects some 2,000 people nationally.

Henderson is scheduled to graduate in December at KU.

Henderson describes his situation on his GoFundMe page where he is seeking financial help for medical and education bills:

I transferred here (KU) for my final two years of college in Summer 2012. In that year I was able to make the honor roll and worked for the University Admissions department giving tours and answering questions for prospective students. It was during one of these tours in July, 2013 that I noticed something was going wrong with my body.

It began as a pronounced sense of weakness, followed by a rash that seemed to spread indiscriminately, from my back to my legs and even my face. One thing that seemed certain was that the sun and activity made all of the symptoms worse.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke with the NIH describes Dermatomyositis as one of a group of muscle diseases known as the inflammatory myopathies, which are characterized by chronic muscle inflammation accompanied by muscle weakness.  Dermatomyositis’ cardinal symptom is a skin rash that precedes, accompanies, or follows  progressive muscle weakness.  The rash looks patchy, with purple or red discolorations, and characteristically develops on the eyelids and on muscles used to extend or straighten joints, including knuckles, elbows, knees, and toes.  Red rashes may also occur on the face, neck, shoulders, upper chest, back, and other locations, and there may be swelling in the affected areas.  The rash sometimes occurs without obvious muscle involvement.

There is no cure for dermatomyositis, but the symptoms can be treated.  Options include medication, physical therapy, exercise, heat therapy (including microwave and ultrasound), orthotics and assistive devices, and rest.  The standard treatment for dermatomyositis is a corticosteroid drug, given either in pill form or intravenously.  Immunosuppressant drugs, such as azathioprine and methotrexate, may reduce inflammation in people who do not respond well to prednisone.  Periodic treatment using intravenous immunoglobulin can also improve recovery.

TJ writes:

My worries now consist mainly of fear. As crazy as it seems, I am afraid of snow because I will not be able to drive to the hospital for aid.  I am afraid that if something happens to my family I will not be able to be there, since I cannot travel out of town. I am afraid for my beautiful fiance and the life she is signing up for, one where taking her on a decent date is not without great planning and struggle. I fear for my own wedding day and being able to get through it. I fear for where my life will be soon, and not because of my desire to live it but the hand I’ve been dealt.

To read more about TJs situation and to help–visit his GoFundMe page


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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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