While strumming his guitar one day about 15 years ago, Kevin Gaither noticed something strange — his hand froze on the fret. Thinking it might be a fluke, he continued on as if nothing had happened, teaching as an English professor at South Louisiana Community College; writing music and lyrics, playing gigs with fellow SLCC teachers and students.
After eight months, he finally told his uncle, a physician, about his symptoms. Gaither tried to blame his “frozen spells” on getting his shoulder caught in an elevator. His uncle suggested that Gaither consult a specialist. He saw an orthopedist, who immediately referred him to a neurologist. While doing the walking test, Gaither tried to hide his shuffling symptoms. But, the perceptive doc suspected right away that Gaither’s symptoms could be due to either a brain tumor or Parkinson’s disease. A reaction to medication confirmed that it was indeed Parkinson’s, a degenerative neurological disease that leads to shaking (tremors) and difficulty with walking and coordination. Its sufferers eventually lose control of movement.
Diagnosed at the age of 41, Gaither, who has a master’s degree in English from UL Lafayette and Ph.D. in 20th century American literature from Texas A & M University, continued teaching at SLCC. Eventually, his vision started failing. Over six months, he became totally blind. He was diagnosed with double corneal edema, an extremely rare condition.
Perplexed, Gaither’s neurologist referred him to a specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine. One day, his doctor called him and said that he had just read about an unusual case where a Parkinson’s patient of the same age had gone blind. It turned out that the blindness was caused by a reaction to medication. “I was the sixth person in the history of the world who had that happen,” he says.
With the problem solved and his sight back, Gaither returned to SLCC full-time as an English professor. But gradually, his spells worsened. His physician referred him to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The doctors decided to try deep brain stimulation, where electrodes would be surgically implanted into his brain and controlled by a generator inserted in his chest.
In November 2011, Gaither went to MD Anderson for the surgery. The equipment for the procedure had just arrived that day. “I became the guinea pig for them,” he says. During the 24-hour operation, surgeons removed the top of Gaither’s head and implanted four neurotransmitters inside. It was a complete success. “This was as close to normal as I’d been in 15 years,” he reports.
Two months later, Gaither was back at work. “I love my job, I love my job,” he says. “You get this rewarding experience that you have with the students that you can’t get anywhere else.” Although he had a couple of setbacks where his control had to be tweaked, he is now teaching full time and playing music again. In fact, Gaither, who has written over 100 songs, is recording an album with his band. He is ready to get back into shape and start playing basketball and fishing again.
Gaither, now 55, has been an inspiration to his students at SLCC. Former pupil Aaron Broussard, who took two of Gaither’s classes and did jam sessions with him, has nothing but praise for his mentor. “One of the things that really impresses me about him is his continued optimism,” Broussard says. “He just never has a bad day.”
What makes Gaither such a popular prof? “I keep it young,” he says. “I try to keep up with what the students are into so I can talk to them. When I mention Bob Marley and Tupac Shakur, they just light up.”
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Two bedroom in Lafayette or two bedroom in Kaplan
Sennond trunk show at kiki
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thursday’s explosion aboard an oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico is now under investigation by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
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Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Four hours after inviting supporters to a rally with Sen. Marco Rubio, Bill Cassidy claimed that Mary Landrieu “voted against stopping executive amnesty.”
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Money from the first and only settlement so far in a Louisiana flood board's lawsuit against dozens of energy companies will be placed in a special account dedicated to coastal restoration.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
Carencro ranch style home or three bedroom traditional in St. Martinville
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
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With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
BP is heading to a federal appeals court in its effort to oust the administrator of damage settlement claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
It was only a few months ago when the LPSB held the school system’s purse strings with a death grip, but oh how board President Hunter Beasley's demeanor seems to be changing with the ouster of Superintendent Pat Cooper.
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