64-year-old Don Isaac never backs down from a challenge. At 6’3”, he has always been strong, not only in his physique but also in his work ethic. But in 2020, Don began to feel extremely weak and winded after his shifts as an equipment operator for Travis County. Eventually, he started experiencing breathing issues and had trouble swallowing. After decades of doing work with the county, he was forced to go on disability.
“It was the first time in my life when I felt completely helpless.”
He went to see his primary care physician, who immediately referred him to Dr. Yessar Hussain.
At Austin Neuromuscular Center, he underwent a muscle biopsy and thorough muscle and strength testing. Dr. Hussain determined that Don has a rare neuromuscular condition called myositis, which strikes between 50,000 and 75,000 people in our country.
With myositis, Don’s immune system attacks his muscles and causes chronic inflammation. Eventually, the inflammation makes his muscles feel increasingly weak. There are different kinds of myositis that can impact different muscle groups, but it most commonly affects the muscles needed to move including:
- Arms and shoulders
- Legs and hips
- Abdomen and spine
Some people with myositis can also experience muscle weakness in their eyes, esophagus and diaphragm.
According to The Myositis Association, there are five types of myositis, including:
- Necrotizing myopathy
- Sporadic inclusion body myositis
- Juvenile forms of myositis
Myositis patients like Don need adequate treatment because, without it, it can cause significant disability or even death. Currently, there’s no cure for myositis.
Don was initially prescribed high doses of prednisone (steroids), intensive physical therapy, and now takes Rituxan, a medical that reduces inflammation, pain, swelling and joint damage. He had to relearn how to use nearly all of his muscles and needed help with all his daily living activities. He even had to relearn how to chew.
After three long years of rehabilitation, Don is able to work again, now as a nighttime security guard at an Austin high-rise condominium. He’s grateful for the opportunity to be back at work and contribute to his household.
“The only way I could remain positive was to dial into my spirituality because every aspect of my life was being tested.”
He says he is so thankful to all his family and friends who rallied beside him. But most of all, he’s grateful to his new bride, Kendra, who never left his side. In the middle of his health crisis, they got married in October of 2022.
“I never knew I could be cared for and loved by anyone like my wife.”
Don no longer needs assistive walking devices like a cane or walker. The advice he gives others with a diagnosis of myositis?
“Have confidence in your faith and never give up.”