SAN ANGELO, TX -- The idea of battling for life can be one of the scariest moments we ever experience. For San Angelo's Robert Rumph his battle with the rare disease Myasthenia Gravis was something that created a new form of life, but more importantly a battle that he lived to tell about.
"We call it the snowflake disease," says Robert Rumph. "Each snowflake is unique and each Myasthenia patient has a unique reaction to the things. The bottom line is the muscles shut down and fight themselves in some capacity."
According to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation, the disease is best described as "grave muscular weakness" with the first case documented in 1672. MG is a neuromuscular disease that is usually caused by an autoimmune problem that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue.
Like many cases Robert Rumph was impacted by weakness in muscles that control the eyes, face, neck and limbs.
"I was in H-E-B a little over a year ago and something just didn't feel right," says Rumph. "Things were out of focus and I experienced double vision so I came home and about a week later I had trouble keeping my eyes open and pretty soon I couldn't chew my food and pretty soon I had difficulty speaking, and then before long I couldn't swallow my food and then I couldn't breath."
Due to Rumph's double vision and droopy eyelids, he was examined by his eye doctor only to be referred to Neurologist Dr. Chris Vanderzant, DO at Shannon Medical Center.
According to Dr. Vanderzant the disease is rare and there about 20 cases per 100,000 people. Rumph happened to be one of those few in San Angelo to encounter the life-altering disease.
Rumph would eventually be admitted to Shannon Medical Center and later transported to Lubbock to seek advanced medical attention.
"I had to have a feeding and breathing tube," says Rumph. "I counted about over 85 needle sticks over the 21 days in the hospital that I was there."
Rumph a long time musician and educator throughout West Texas is now an advocate for the national Myathenia Gravis Foundation. The foundation's upcoming national conference is scheduled to be held in Fort Worth, but in effort to raise awareness for the disease the foundation called for a video contest in which would go before a national vote to be shown at the national conference.
Rumph's grandchildren in San Angelo were quick to produce a video.
"They certainly went through this ordeal with me and very grateful to have their support," says Rumph. "I would selfishly want my grandchildren to win that competition but the good news is that all the money raised goes to the MGFA for medical research."
Rumph who's made his life as a musician teaching music and now currently a member of the San Angelo Symphony playing the bassoon, back in December had an unusual follow-up visit with Dr. Vanderzant.
"I don't attend the symphony regularly but I had free tickets," says Dr. Vanderzant. "My friend invited me to sit in the orchestra section. When intermission came this guy from the orchestra gets down off the stage and comes to greet me and I realized it was Mr. Rumph. I didn't know until that moment that he played the bassoon in the San Angelo Symphony."
Myasthenia Gravis has limited Rumph from his normal activity playing with the San Angelo Symphony but says he still intends to be apart of the organization.
"I had to forego about 3 or 4 concerts because I did not have the physcial stamina," says Rumph. This year was a difficult year but every day I'm stronger and so I will be with the symphony again but I got to go out and practice."
Since his experience with Myasthenia Gravis Rumph says his relationship with his family has become stronger than ever especially with his wife.
"When you're intubated in ICU and have a feeding tube down you. The only people you want there are your family and your doctor. My wife and I have really opened up about just life in general and that's been a wonderful thing. She's been the most important person in my life."
June is MG Awareness Month, declared by the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America. As part of raising awareness of the disease, funds to find a cure, and to provide patient support, Robert Rumph has entered a video of his grandchildren talking about their grandfather's plight in a fundraising contest. The fundraising video that attracts the most donations wins the contest, and the video will be featured during the next MGFA conference.
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