From Morbid Obesity to Taking Charge of My Life
“My Gutsy Story®” by Kenn Ashcraft
It’s Thursday night and I’m on the red eye flight back to Kansas City from Beverly Hills. My legs felt unusually hot to the touch, especially since it was in the dead of winter. I made a trip to the lavatory and noticed they were reddened as if I had been sunbathing on the California beach. I straightened my clothes and returned to my seat without giving them or the pain they created another thought.
The next afternoon, an associate and I were returning from lunch when I fell to the floor as we entered our offices. “What in the hell, Kenn? Are you alright?” Bill asked.
“Damned if I know. Help me up,” I snapped back. Pulling me up, the man let go and I fell back to the floor. I couldn’t move—the pain was too intense. “Bill, I can’t stand,” I shouted. With the receptionist, the two of them carried me out to my car. Bill jumped into the driver’s seat and off we sped to the nearby hospital.
Once in the emergency room, Bill explained what happened. I was sitting in the chair, doubled in pain and unable to talk. He gave the nurse my personal details. Ignoring him, she barked for one of the ER doctors to my side. “What’s going on, sir? Where do you hurt?” the woman asked.
“My legs are on fire and they feel like shards of glass are ripping through my skin. Give me something for the pain—please,” I begged the woman.
“Hello, I’m Dr. Jacobson. What happened?” he asked. If he was the doctor, I must have been his grandpa. He didn’t look a day over eighteen and I was forty-one.
“Hell if I know. I got home last night from LA and my legs were on fire. The pain wasn’t this bad.” The doctor wheeled me into a room, explained that he was ordering a set of x-rays and some lab tests. He began pulling on my legs in different directions. I wanted to strangle the man. “Just fix my damn legs and make the pain go away,” I yelled.
The next minute I was in a hospital room. Janet, my wife, was sitting in the chair beside me and Alex, my son, was playing video games.
“Hello Mr. Ashcraft,” an older gentleman dressed in scrubs said as he entered my room. “I’m Dr. Thomsen and I’ll review the results of your tests.”
“Great, when can I get out of here? Make the pain stop,” I demanded. With his calm demeanor, the doctor explained that I had an attack of cellulitis and adding insult to injury, I also had gout.
“It’s not quite that simple. For the gout, I’ll drain your legs of fluid. That should relieve the pain—the ‘shards of glass’ feeling you described and for the redness and swollenness of your legs—that’s the cellulitis. We can treat that.”
“Well then, let’s do it and I can be on my way,” I said in my usual confident, boastful voice. I was ready to get home.
“Not so fast, Mr. Ashcraft. These are temporary fixes. You’ll need to schedule an appointment so we can further evaluate your needs. This could be a recurring problem,” the doctor replied.
“If the pain is going to be this bad, just cut off my legs and be done with it,” I sneered.
“Don’t laugh, sir. That is often reality,” Dr. Thomsen retorted back.
Fifteen years later I had become morbidly obese and was having the same issues with my legs—only worse. I couldn’t walk for more than twenty feet without being winded. I weighed over four hundred and fifty pounds and walked with a cane, avoided steps of any kind and ate pain killers to get through the day.
The end came quick. Dr. Brown, my family doctor, had suggested a complete physical to get to the bottom of the pain issue. Yes, obesity was a factor but she believed there was something more seriously involved.
“Kenn, to be frank, I am diagnosing you with lymphedema and insist that you apply for disability,” she said. “I’m also ordering some special physical therapy and treatment.”
“What is lymphedema?” I asked.
“You have a compromised lymphatic system; your body cannot rid itself of the unnecessary lymph fluids. That creates another set of problems… “, she continued.
“But, Doctor Brown; I need to work,” I cried.
“If you don’t quit work and get treatment Kenn, you could end up bed-ridden or worse; you could be dead.”
At the insistence of her, my lawyer and my wife, I left the work force involuntarily and applied for disability. It must have been divinely planned because five months to the date of my application, I received my first disability check.
After a few years of therapy and self-denial; I pursued a new direction. I consulted with a nationally recognized bariatric surgeon in our area and opted to have weight loss surgery. That was two years ago and I have lost two hundred pounds and am on my way to losing an additional eighty. This will put me at my ideal body weight of one hundred and eighty. As for the lymphedema, it’s always going to be with me but it’s more controlled, due in part from the weight loss and partly because of my attitude change. My confidence has returned and I am determined not to let it rule my life.
I am involved in a program that will not only strengthen my entire body but will provide me the necessary tools to take me through to my next journey. In late 2015, I plan to bicycle my way through all one hundred and five counties in Kansas before returning home 4,000 miles later. Along the way, I will hold public seminars at every hospital and talk about lymphedema—what it is and what can be done and weight loss surgery and how it can be an effective tool in battling this debilitating condition.
KENN ASHCRAFT: My name is Kenn Ashcraft; however I’m known as “Kenn Kann”, because if anyone can, Kenn Kann. I live in suburban Johnson County in the Kansas City area and if you have doubts—there are plenty of hills & trees in Kansas—I live amidst all of them. I was retired to medical disability early because of being diagnosed with lymphedema and morbid obesity. I choose to write about living with these issues.
Facebook: “Kenn Kann”
Facebook Page: “A Spin through the Sunflower Patch.”
SONIA MARSH SAYS: I look forward to reading about the next chapter of your life where you ride your bike and hold public seminars at every hospital. This will inspire others who are going through a difficult period and need a boost from someone who overcame his health issues.
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