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Lapsley shares story of dramatic recovery from life-threatening condition

Commissioner Bill Lapsley, back at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners for the first time in more than two months, told the dramatic story of the diagnosis and medical treatment for a rare condition that endangered his life.

Lapsley told commissioners and the public that he woke up on the morning of Sept. 3 having difficulty breathing and experiencing chest pains. Although he expected to recover quickly, he got worse. He visited the Pardee emergency room, where a CAT scan identified a small spot of pneumonia on a lung. No Covid-19, cancer or heart condition.

A penicillin vaccine had little effect and he was back at Pardee on Sept. 20 and 21, where he received a diagnosis of  pneumonia, a small blood clot on a lung and a dissection in the main carotid artery from his heart to his brain. The ER physician called in Dr. Joe Callahan, a Pardee neurologist.

"As fate would have it, Dr. Callahan made the critical diagnosis — Myasthenia Gravis," Lapsley said. An immune disorder, Myasthenia Gravis is a life-threatening condition that affects breathing and requires immediate medical treatment.
"In my case my family doctor had never seen a case in his 50 years of medical practice," he said.

The Pardee doctors sent him to Mission via a seven-minute helicopter ride. A neurologist there, Dr. Jennifer Jones, told Lapsley that he had a serious case of Myasthenia Gravis and needed immediate intensive treatment. After two days, however, the treatment was having a limited success "and my medical team advised my family that the situation was not good." With his body resisting the treatment, doctors put him on a life-supporting ventilator — "another life changing event I will never forget."

"I had more testing and checking that I could ever imagine," he said. He received a blood transfusion and was fed nutrition through a tube before he sat up in bed and ate solid food for the first time. Doctors released him from Mission on Oct. 7 to Care Partners rehab center in Asheville, where he stayed for 12 more days until he came home on Oct. 18.

"Here I am, getting stronger each day and grateful to have improved to this stage," he said. "I am told that my life expectancy has not changed but that I must monitor my condition closely and be aware that my muscle tone can change on short notice." He thanked doctors at Pardee and Mission for their diagnostic skill and for the life-saving treatment they rendered.

Chairman Grady Hawkins thanked Lapsley for the story.

"If you need a testimonial for modern medicine and prayer, just call on Bill," he said. "He's got one for you."