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Joplin man searches for answers regarding rare condition develop - KOAM TV 7

Joplin man searches for answers regarding rare condition developed after injured by 2011 tornado

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A Joplin man searches for answers regarding an undiagnosed condition that developed after he was injured in the 2011 tornado.

Multiple physicians across the country are considering his case to be a medical mystery.

For the past three and a half years, 46-year-old Delbert McGuirk has been desperate for a diagnosis.

A severe condition that causes blistering and swelling of his limbs, has led to six amputations, the most recent about two weeks ago.

"I try to find answers to see what's going on, so I don't have to go through the painful flare ups and possibilities of having something else amputated," McGuirk said.

After more than 40 hospitalizations, and countless visits with multiple physicians, no one has been able to determine the cause of McGuirk's symptoms.

"I've never seen anything like this in my career," said Dr. James Boyle, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at Freeman Health System. "I've spoken with well over a dozen physicians at various medical centers. No one seems to have an answer for exactly why it's happening."

With multiple hospital stays and amputations, McGuirk estimates his medical expenses have well exceeded over $1 million.

McGuirk says his condition began shortly after he was injured in Joplin's 2011 tornado.

"Our house disappeared," McGuirk said. "The tornado went over us and the back side of the tornado started dumping debris. The furnace unit out of somebody else's house landed across my lower legs."

McGuirk did not get treatment until three days after the storm.

At that time, Dr. Boyle treated bacterial infections in his wounds, which he believes triggered McGuirk's current condition.

"It started out as a traumatic injury," Boyle said. "There was an infection component. I think that still is part of it, but I think the underlying problems have become autoimmune in nature."

McGuirk is using antibiotics, steroids and topical wound treatment for his symptoms, but he is hopeful the underlying cause can someday be determined.

"Until then, I guess it's going to be a headache," McGuirk said.

Physicians do not believe the condition is contagious, or related to the rare fungal infections initially found in many others injured by the tornado.

However, one other person injured by the storm, who now lives in Arkansas, has also reported having a mysterious condition, with very similar symptoms.

In both cases, physicians continue to search for a diagnosis.
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