Since October 2013, Brandon Sheely has been a patient in search of a diagnosis.
Brandon’s ordeal began with a search for an orthopedist or other specialist who could tell him what was wrong with his ankles and how they could be corrected. His work as a biologist required strenuous outdoor work, and his ankles kept betraying him.
Even after a CAT scan, early opinions in Wenatchee told him there was “nothing wrong.” Eventually, he took his pain and his ankles to the Sports Medicine Clinic at the University of Washington where the orthopedic surgeon said, “No wonder you can’t walk.” This doctor rebuilt his left ankle.
Back at home in Twisp, six weeks after the surgery, Brandon was finally allowed to put weight on his foot and was ready to begin physical therapy. Brandon says the pain continued after the surgery, and the pain after a PT session kept him bedridden for days.
In the days and months that followed, Brandon’s symptoms have included muscle spasms, nausea, stroke-like symptoms on several occasions (these were eventually diagnosed as hemiplegic migraines), low blood pressure, high cholesterol, seeing stars, painful lesions on his face, and always — always — excruciating pain that moved to the nerves from the bottom of his feet to his legs, then to his arms, his shoulders and his back.
Brandon, an independent contractor who worked for both government and private enterprises, has not been able to work since the summer of 2013. Because the cause of his problems has not been resolved, Brandon cannot receive Social Security disability benefits.
As if his illness were not enough for Brandon, his wife, Laura Schrager, and their daughters Sage and Maya to endure, the wildfires burned the roof of their Lower Beaver Creek home last summer, destroying their furniture and floors and making the house uninhabitable. Fire also burned a storage building to the ground.
From August to November 2014, they rented a house on Twin Lakes Road. From November until April this year they rented a friend’s house on Beaver Creek. Before they returned to their own (unfinished) home last month, the family spent two weeks at Twisp River Suites. Homeowners insurance covered these rentals.
Laura has continued teaching special education for the school district, where she will finish her 14th year this month. Her health insurance helped pay bills from the surgery and continues to help with the search for a diagnosis, but it has not begun to cover all of Brandon’s medical bills.
The other afternoon I spent a couple of hours with Brandon, who told me that day was “the best day I’ve had forever.” He was pain-free until I was about to leave, when his shoulders began to act up. Brandon and Laura’s ordeal, he said “certainly doesn’t give me much faith in the medical community.”
I understand the feeling. Not knowing what’s wrong is probably worse than getting even really bad news from the doctor. What’s been most frustrating for Brandon is that he feels that many of the specialists he’s seen “don’t take [him] seriously.” They are suspicious of his pain. “That doesn’t mean there is nothing there,” he says.
Brandon has not given up hope. He’s actively searching on the Internet for answers to his medical problems. He has not sought help from his community at all, either for fire cleanup or his medical expenses.
Despite reluctance (and pride) on Brandon’s part, both a bank account at North Cascades Bank and an account at http://gofundme.com in his name will be established by the end of the week. If you can’t wait that long, you are welcome to send a check made out to “Brandon Sheeley or Laura Schrager” to me at P.O. Box 1278, Twisp, WA 98856, and I will deposit checks for you. I hope you will decide to help this young family.