Young man is victim of rare illness

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Jennifer Moak knew her son was not feeling well when he went tobed on Oct. 20 of last year. What she didn’t know was that whenThomas Matthew Rushing awoke the next day his life would never bethe same.

Matthew, 21, of Bogue Chitto is a patient at the RehabilitationCenter at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.UMC has been Matt’s home on and off since Nov. 7. Now he isrecovering from brain surgery performed on March 31.

Matt has been diagnosed with blastomycosis, which he evidentlycontracted by inadvertently inhaling particles of fungus known asblastomyces.

According to Dr. James Hughes, one of the physicians treatingMatt, blastomycosis as it has infected the young man is rare.

“It’s a typical fungus that grows in wet, wooded areas,” Dr.Hughes said, “but it is extremely rare that it sets up in anindividual as it has in Matt.”

Blastomycosis is not transmitted person to person or animal toperson, said Dr. Hughes. Patients affected by the illness aregenerally male, who tend to spend more time in areas where thefungus grows, he said.

Moak said her son’s problems began last October when hecomplained that his knees hurt, and he was diagnosed with pulledligaments. On the 20th day of that month, Moak said, “he went tobed and never got up again.”

“Knots like chicken eggs had popped up on his legs,” she said.Matt was treated in McComb where the abscesses were drained andthen sent to UMC where the condition was diagnosed. He didn’t leavethe hospital until Nov. 20.

Matt was making some progress, but on March 15 began to complainof headaches, Moak said. She gave him Tylenol, which helped some,but in a matter of days he began to complain about light and noiseand “acted drunk or high.”

Further tests at UMC detected a brain lesion, and Matt underwentwhat Dr. Hughes called “a major brain biopsy” on March 31. Theresults showed spread of the fungus.

The road to recovery for Matt will be a long one, said Dr.Hughes. “Only time will tell,” how much progress can be made, hesaid.

“It takes so long to be rid of a fungus because the illness issystemic. It comes into the body and spreads,” Dr. Hughes said. Theanti-fungal medication being used to treat Matt is expensive, andthat treatment alone could take up to nine months, he said.

Also, Matt is having to deal with the effects of the brainlesion.

“It makes sight difficult. Plus he can hear, but he’s notcomprehending what he hears,” Dr. Hughes said.

Moak said her son is doing better every day, and he now refersto speech therapy as “English class.”

“As he heals, we’re learning how to deal with this,” shesaid.

Dr. Hughes said the family will need help when Matt is finallydischarged from the hospital.

“They will need tremendous support from the community ineverything from community services to making changes at their houseto accommodate him,” Dr. Hughes said.

That help begins Friday when Easthaven Baptist Church hosts aspaghetti dinner to raise funds. Plates are $5 each, and meals willbe served from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.