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.”
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Shop Lafayette goes strong
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
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By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
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State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
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