Doug Lindsay was 21 and starting his senior year at Rockhurst University, a Jesuit college in Kansas City, Missouri, when his world imploded.
After his first day of classes, the biology major collapsed at home on the dining room table, the room spinning around him.
It was 1999. The symptoms soon became intense and untreatable. His heart would race, he felt weak and he frequently got dizzy. Lindsay could walk only about 50 feet at a time and couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes.
“Even lying on the floor didn’t feel like it was low enough,” he said.
The former high school track athlete had dreamed of becoming a biochemistry professor or maybe a writer for “The Simpsons.”
Instead, he would spend the next 11 years mostly confined to a hospital bed in his living room in St. Louis, hamstrung by a mysterious ailment.
Doctors were baffled. Treatments didn’t help. And Lindsay eventually realized that if he wanted his life back, he would have to do it himself.
His journey since has amazed medical professionals.
“He did something extraordinary,” said John Novack, spokesman for Inspire, a healthcare social network for rare and chronic-disease patients. When people hear Lindsay’s story, Novack said, they often say, “I can do something similar for my kid.”
His mother was a living prophecy
Whatever was wrong with him ran in the family.
By the time Lindsay was 18 months old, his mother was so weak she could no longer pick him up.
By the time he was 4 she could no longer walk. She did manage to pick him up one more time that year, when he was choking on a jawbreaker. She saved his life.
Otherwise, she was too frail. She lived for decades, mostly bedridden with the same condition that stole her son’s twenties. After years of tests, she determined her condition was related to her thyroid, but she was too sick to travel to the Mayo Clinic to get more specialized care, Lindsay said.
Lindsay’s aunt also developed the same ailment, growing so feeble she couldn’t tie her own shoes.
As a teenager, watching his family members sidelined from life, Lindsay wondered whether his body was a ticking time bomb, too.
Finally, that day in 1999, the alarm went off.
“When I called my mom that night to tell her I needed to drop out (of college), we both knew,” he said. The family curse had struck.
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