Family struggles while doctors search for answers on mystery illness

Lost home due to mysterious illness

Nearly a year ago, Dale Wilkerson was at his Ama home when he suddenly became dizzy and fell to the ground unconscious.

It marked the day that Wilkerson began a struggle with trying to identify an illness that cost them their home and hurt his family financially. He was taken to St. Charles Parish Hospital where tests revealed little although it was suspected he’d had a heart attack or a stroke.

“Right after ‘the big one’ happening, they kept happening every two or three days,” said companion Kristy Hansen of what appeared to be seizures. “We kept taking him to emergency rooms and a family doctor who sent him to a neurologist and then to an expert in brain traumas – and no one knows.”

They did learn Wilkerson has a spot on his brain, but doctors can’t explain it, she said.

“It’s been really hard,” she said. “My son gets really worried about Dale. Being from Washington State, we have no family here.”

The couple, who have four children – Hansen’s 15-year-old son along with their three-year-old and twins (a boy and a girl), deal with his apparent seizures leaving the family with uncertainties.

“My heart goes to anybody else going through this,” Hansen said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve dealt with in my hard life. Having to watch the person you love have these things happen to them is hard. You feel like you’re helpless.”

But she remains hopeful about Wilkerson’s condition because her “miracle babies” convinced her good things can happen. Because of complications from surgery in her 20s, she wasn’t supposed to be able to have children yet she has three of them.

But she also said it’s been difficult dealing with the uncertainties of Wilkerson’s condition and apparent illness.

“The doctors just keep telling him don’t go to work, but I don’t make enough to support a family of six,” Hansen said. “It’s frustrating. Every time we go to the doctor in the hopes now we’ll know what’s wrong with him, and we leave there disappointed.”

What they do know is, with Wilkerson being unable to work, they couldn’t afford their home in Ama anymore and had to move in with family in Franklinton, putting 15 people under one roof.

Despite his condition, he found work as an iron worker and nearly eight months later they have since returned to their home.

But Hansen said she worries about him working, and even with his willingness to work his jobs tend to run project to project. He was laid off a job two weeks ago and is looking for work now.

“That position is extremely dangerous for him to be doing and especially so with his health issues,” she said.

Wilkerson’s episodes have continued although Hansen said he averages fewer of them at about two a month, but they are worse and look more like seizures now, she said. He’s found a way to anticipate them and avoid hurting himself.

“He explains he has a sensation in his head that he can feel coming,” she said. “It feels like his brain has tremors. He can stop what he’s doing and sit down so he hasn’t had any bad accidents.”

Despite the condition, he’s gone to work and twice he’s been helped by fellow workers who witnessed his apparent seizures.

“Luckily, he worked for people who were good to him and kept a close eye on him,” she said. “His co-workers believed it was a seizure, too.”

Nearly 10 doctors later, Wilkerson still has no definitive answers.

They are hopeful their family doctor has found a New Orleans neurologist, who people are praising, who might be able to pinpoint his illness. They hope to meet with him in about two months, when he is expected to run new MRIs on Wilkerson’s brain and start everything fresh in his efforts to find what’s wrong.

Hansen said the situation is also heart wrenching because Wilkerson is the kind of man who would give a person the shirt off his back.

“It’s breaking my heart to see this happening to him and I can’t help,” she said. “He’s the kindest person. He’s a sweetheart.”

 

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