Following is the story of Jayson Kyle, a rheumatoid arthritis patient of Dr. Brown, written in 1993.
There is little difference with my story (battle) with rheumatoid arthritis and that of millions of other arthritics except the ending. I was living with my wife, Maureen, in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea when suddenly my life was changed.
In 1976, we arrived in Papua New Guinea to work with several hundred children of missionaries serving in Southeast Asia under the auspices of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Our lives were filled with teaching in the Ukarumpa High School and Elementary School, coaching sports, being house parents to twelve high school students, and leading youth in their study of the Bible. My introduction to arthritis came as a complete surprise.
Though I had pneumonia in the spring of l977, the summer months were filled with long productive workdays and much participation in sports. Physically, though tired, I was in very good condition. As a player-coach, I played on the National Volleyball championship team that summer, and we won! In October 1977, I mentioned to Maureen that my right big toe was swollen and hurt. She told me to 'get tough' since as an athlete I always had aches and pains!
The following day my right forefinger was also swollen and painful. Our doctor then took some blood to send to Australia for testing. On day four I could only shuffle about like a very old man. Even my breathing was wheezy. The doctors drugged me so that I slept eighteen hours, and when I awoke they put me on twenty-five mgs. of prednisone, a corticosteroid. The doctors told me they thought I had viral arthritis, a disease that at the time was very prevalent in Africa.
The days that followed were strange, filled with pain, denial and a change in my routine. First, I decided to prove to others that I really was not 'that' sick. I had only played golf twice in my life, so I decided to take up a new sport. I read Jack Nicklaus' book on golf and promptly went out and shot an 86. The only problem was that I had to use my three and five irons as crutches to complete the last two holes! The pain was really something to behold.
The swelling and pain just would not go away. After completing the twenty-five mgs. of prednisone, my body immediately returned to its swollen state. For several weeks I tried to live with 'it' but following five weeks of intense pain, I was put back on prednisone. Eventually two things forced the medical doctors to begin pressuring me to return to the United States for medical treatment.
I loved to play tennis and reported to my doctor that my net game no longer existed. The ball would hit the baseline before I reacted. A couple of times I was almost hit by a car and felt no rush of adrenaline. They were a few of the many indicators that my adrenal glands were shutting down.
I remember one morning, as if it were yesterday, that I tried to help a woman change a flat tire. I first got down on my knees to loosen the lug nuts. As I gripped the handle, searing pain spread from my hands and on throughout my body, leaving me physically beat. After admitting that I could not remove the lug nuts, I tried to stand up. I had to drag myself up the side of the car and almost fell back onto the dusty road. But I told the lady the least I could do would be to remove the spare tire from her trunk. But as I grasped the wing nut that held the tire in place, the intense pain returned making me helpless to assist in any way. I remember telling the lady I was sorry I could not help her and quickly turned my back so as to hide my tears. I slowly entered my house and my tears with uninhibited shame streamed down my face. I had been confronted with my weak and helpless state as never before in my young life. It opened new vistas of understanding and learning which have continued to this day.
When my doctor heard about my tennis life and tire-changing experience, he told me it was time to go home to the United States. I walked out of his office saying, "My work is not done here and God has more for me to do." It is interesting how possessive and strong-willed arthritics can be.
By June 1978, I was only able to work shortened work days because I was taking 40 mgs. of prednisone daily. That month I was ordered home by my doctor and the directors of Wycliffe Bible Translators. It could not have come at a worse time as far as I was concerned. My work was doing well, Maureen (my wife) was seven months pregnant with our first child, and to return to the States was disgraceful for me, especially not knowing exactly what was wrong.
In 1978, my parents, John and Lois Kyle, were living in Arlington, Virginia. I called and asked them to find a rheumatologist in a major city. Through a series of 'circumstances' that I believe God directed, they heard of Dr. Thomas Brown.
Several times my parents called Dr. Brown's office for an appointment, only to be told that there was a four-month waiting list to see the doctor. One day my mother called the office again and repeated the same information, but this time Dr. Brown was passing by and overheard " . . . he is twenty-seven years old and is presently in Papua New Guinea." Dr. Brown stopped. You see, Dr. Brown had served as a medical doctor in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War. He asked Dottie, the receptionist, who was calling. Upon hearing of my situation he told her to make room in the hospital. I began to understand that my doctor was sensitive to human suffering. Three weeks later began my first of many ten-day hospital stays.
Dr. Brown was interested that I had contracted rheumatoid arthritis only nine months earlier. Though I had been on a high dose of prednisone. I had not been treated with gold or other more powerful drugs. Normally arthritics came to Dr. Brown as a last resort. My first hospital stay was both thought provoking and funny.
For the first time in my life, I was surrounded primarily by older folks who had been suffering for many years with arthritis. Most had already undergone numerous joint operations by the time they reached Dr. Brown. The gravity of the disease I had made me seriously contemplate my future. At the same time, my fellow patients felt sorry for me since I was young and skinny. They began giving me extra food from their meal trays; i.e. fried chicken, mashed potatoes, apple pie, etc. I could not get enough! Ten days later I left the hospital twenty pounds heavier!
I left Arlington, Virginia feeling that Dr. Brown knew what he was talking about when it came to rheumatoid arthritis, and that there definitely was hope. But I want you to know that all was not fun and games. Between July 1978 and July 1984, I entered the hospital nine times for ten to fourteen days of treatment.
Getting off the prednisone was the first of many challenges. It took me over two years to stop taking prednisone. In the early days I could only work two to three hours at my office, and spent the rest of the day sleeping. I guess I first thought we would be able to return overseas as missionaries in one year. Dr. Brown was smart enough not to tell me it was impossible. Whenever I asked him if I could return he would always say, "Let's wait and see."
Then there were our former friends who were doctors. Most of them, though not all, told us no one knew the cause of rheumatoid arthritis, and that I ought to enter the Mayo Clinic, the Emery Medical Center or Duke University Medical Center to receive real medical treatment. It was not always easy continuing with Dr. Brown.
You see, I was often experiencing tremendous pain in all of my joints, fighting depression, and the normal arthritis flares. At the same time I did not like to have to rest and wanted my normal life back. There were always well-meaning friends who gave me 'new' arthritis treatments, especially health food. I was helped by some of it, but I tell you I do not believe animals would eat and drink some of the stuff I took!
A turning point came for me during my third hospital stay in July 1979. I was not seeing any real positive progress in my condition, other than a very slow progression in the crippling of my fingers. I was basically the same. Two women patients about my age were in the hospital at that time, and I asked them about their medical history. They told me that it was not until the end of the second year of Dr. Brown's treatment that they began to see improvement.
I took hold of the experience of these two women and kept moving forward. You know, I found that fellow patients can be of great encouragement during very dark and difficult days. We can help each other focus on what is good and profitable, and not feel sorry for ourselves.
One of my good friends was Myra Frank. In those days she was studying at the University of Iowa. We tried to make our hospital visits at the same time. While Myra had suffered much more than I, we found we could encourage one another to look for good in each day. At times we focused only on getting through the next hour. We also believed God that He was in control and not making any mistakes in our lives.
In the early 1980's, I began to experience other physical problems. In 1980, I had a mass removed from my right breast. After the surgery I found out that the doctors thought it to be cancerous, but it was benign. Then in 1982 and 1983, I had two cornea transplants due to keraticonus. Nothing ever linked these events to arthritis, and I never spent much time contemplating the 'whys.'
During my hospital visits I spent most of my time visiting other patients. I was rarely in my room. The hospital did not have a chaplain, and their attitude regarding the importance of spiritual things was seen when they remodeled the chapel into a public restroom. Since I am a Presbyterian minister, the hospital Director of Social Services brought me a list of patients to visit.
In order to get on with my work of visiting patients, I often hung my IV bag from a window curtain hook when the nurses were not looking. The act probably originated from the idea of 'fast food service', but in my case it was fast drugs! I know it was not the best thing to do, but we all have our own means to cope with sickness. Maybe it was my way of focusing on the problem and getting on with life. I do not know.
I have found in my experience with many arthritics that to believe and sense that we are useful in God's plan is very important. By the way, I have found very few arthritics that did not believe in God. One finds a loving God in the midst of suffering. I did too.
I read many books on pain and was most helped by those authors who did not give easy answers, but sought to be understanding. God does not always give me answers, but I have found He has never abandoned me. He has also never required of me blind faith.
Over a six-year period Dr. Brown's antibiotic treatment took me into remission. Like Dr. Brown, I am hesitant to say I am cured. There is still much research to be done. Yet I am not crippled and live a very full and productive life. While I took the antibiotic treatment faithfully, I know I was helped in other ways.
Dr. Brown had me spend a lot of time with physical and occupational therapists in the first years. I religiously followed their instructions. Dr. Brown also spent hours educating me on the difference between a pragmatic and a mechanistic approach to arthritis, and many other technical aspects of this disease.
I found that an aloe vera drink helped my stomach pains and sped my getting off prednisone. You wouldn't believe who made the aloe drink; Lady Love Cosmetics! I believe their offices are located in Dallas, Texas. I am sure the cases of vitamins and a treatment for dilated arteries also were a help.
Yet in the final analysis I know God used Dr. Brown's treatment to bring me into a state of remission. On July 10, l984, Dr. Brown told me that I would not need to return to the hospital, and that we could do mission work outside the United States. In 1986, Maureen, our three children and I left the United States and spent a year learning Spanish in Costa Rica.
Since 1987, our family has lived in Mexico City, the world's most polluted city. About once a year my arthritis surfaces primarily due to the heavy work schedule I keep. When this happens I immediately begin a short treatment of tetracycline and try to get more sleep. Normally in a few weeks I am back in remission. Each year the flares are shorter and not as severe.
I am still able to play a good game of tennis, as was Dr. Brown, and I am beginning to run again. I am constantly aware that I am one of the few blessed arthritics to return to a fairly normal lifestyle, but I am a changed man, and realize my responsibility to tell other arthritics that there is HOPE.
Postscript written by Jayson Kyle on September 15, 1998.
Five years have passed since I wrote the above summary of my journey with rheumatoid arthritis. I am now forty seven years old with kids starting to go to college.
We still live in Mexico City, Mexico. I direct over seventy missionaries working throughout Mexico teaching the truths of the Bible to Mexicans.
It has been five years since I have taken any medicine for arthritis pain or flares. My last flare would have been in early 1993. Why do I believe that my rheumatoid arthritis has gone into remission? I can only speculate, but I do have an opinion.
Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown often spoke of the importance of the time needed for the joints areas most affected by the arthritis to "calm down" and return to a normal state after the tetracycline treatment. And that I needed to learn to listen to my body and slow down when it was telling me to. Well, the arthritis started in my toes and fingers. My last flares were in my fingers. It has not happened for five years.
So I am back to running 30 minutes every other day, playing tennis and golf when I can get away from my work, and enjoying long walks with Maureen. I am getting older and have taken to time to look back on my short life recently. I am a very blessed man. I do not deserve having the health God has given me. I pray that I will not take it for granted.
Still I have a renewed desire to share with other arthritics that I believe there is a high probability that the treatment I received from Dr. Brown can help them too.
A very well trained medical doctor and friend recently told me that he did not believe that I had ever had rheumatoid arthritis. But after seeing my medical records, RH factors, sed rates, etc, he just matter of factly stated: "God used Dr. Brown to heal you and perform a miracle." You know life begins with the miracle of birth and continues with smaller miracles of life until our death.
Whether you believe in God or not, I want to encourage you to investigate the medical treatment which Dr. Brown pioneered. It has been a blessing in my own life and that of other friends through the years.
In closing this short testimonial I would be remiss to not give God's people credit in all that took place. You see, thousands of people have faithfully prayed for me over the years and our gracious God heard. In my case the answer was improved health. But whatever the answer I have found that God never changes and controls all things in my life, good and bad for His own glory.
I do not know what God may have for me tomorrow. But like a close friend of mine, David Cannada said in January 1970 a few minutes before dying of leukemia, "I do not know what the future holds, but I want to glorify Him with my life." I pray that God will use my simple testimony of how God used Dr. Brown's medical treatment in my life in your life and those of your friends and loved ones. God bless, direct and care for you.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org