For 30 years, Mattoon resident Joe Hood has battled one health crisis after the next. Yet on May 14, he felt he’d put his health concerns behind him as he walked across the finish line at Races for All Paces.
Sadly, Joe’s health problems began in 1986 when he had a series of blood clots that damaged the circulation in his left leg. He then began fighting leg wounds that were similar to diabetic ulcers, and by 1993 he was diagnosed with systemic lupus.
For several years, Joe tried a wide variety of medications to keep the lupus at bay. “I was lucky that lupus never affected my major organs,” he said, but he added that the long-term use of lupus medications caused significant side effects, including severe muscle and joint pain and shrinking bone density. In fact, his right ankle had bone death, which required surgical fusing to strengthen it.
A perennial optimist, Joe said, “I always thought I could get my health issues fixed, but the wounds always came back.” He spent a great amount of time in the SBL Advanced Wound Center receiving treatment in a hyperbaric chamber. “The staff was like a second family, inspiring me and motivating me to continue my journey to health,” he said. In the hyperbaric chamber, pure oxygen was infused to promote tissue growth and healing.
Ultimately, Joe told his surgeon, Kellie Jones-Monahan, MD, that he was ready to have his leg amputated below the knee. “I was looking for a better quality of life because the stress, and pain and worry of it was taking a toll on me,” he said.
Following the surgery, Joe conceded that he felt relief immediately. “I knew my problem was gone,” he said. “For the first time in a long time, I began to look forward to possibilities and to getting back to the things I enjoyed doing.”
Joe started physical therapy to work on balance and stability and then transitioned to the Center for Healthy Living where he began working with health coach George VonBehren for upper- and lower-body strengthening. “I told George that one of my goals was to participate in a 5K, so he set up a program to help me get ready,” he said.
Joe participated in the Races for All Paces one-mile fun run/walk with the support of his wife, Patty, and marked crossing the finish line as the start of a new phase of his life. “It made me feel really good to complete the event because there was so much support for me,” he said. Joe’s next goal is to participate in the Run for the Bagel at Mattoon’s Bagelfest this summer.
Joe is quick to recognize the support and motivation he received from Dr. Ranchero of the SBL Center for Healthy Living. While reflecting on his improved health and strength, Joe said, “I didn’t really care what it might take to make this happen, I was willing to do it. Now, I’m just really excited about life. I’m in a good place and very grateful to those who helped get me here.”