Rushing recovers after illness, departs

Published 5:00 am Sunday, August 29, 2004

A year ago, family, friends and physicians of Thomas MatthewRushing were expecting him to die of a rare illness. Friday,Matthew walked out of an area nursing facility and headed home.

A large gathering of family, friends and staff members of SilverCross Nursing Home bid Rushing a fond farewell and applauded as heslowly made his way through the door of the facility to return tothe home he hadn’t seen in more than a year.

“I’ve been ready to do this for a long time,” the 22-year-oldRushing said.

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Rushing’s ordeal has been one of true strength anddetermination, said Jennifer Moak, his mother. He has been spareddeath twice and has learned to walk three times.

“If there’s one thing that child’s got, it’s determination,” shesaid.

Rushing was not feeling well when he went to bed Oct. 20, 2002,but no one expected that when he woke up his life would be changedforever.

Matt, as he prefers to be called, was diagnosed withblastomycosis, which he most likely contracted by inadvertentlyinhaling particles of fungus know as blastomyces.

The infection is rare and cannot be transmitted from person toperson or animal to person. According to the physician who treatedRushing, “It’s a typical fungus that grows in wet, wooded areas,but it is extremely rare that it sets up in an individual as it hasin Matt.”

Rushing has suffered through several complications from theillness, but one of the most severe occurred in March 2003 whenheadaches revealed a brain lesion that required a major brainbiopsy. The results showed the fungus had continued to spread.

The harshest part of Rushing’s ordeal lay just ahead, however. Ashot malfunctioned on July 28, and the young man was hanging tolife by a thread. His kidneys were shutting down, and he was rushedto King’s Daughters Medical Center, where he was taken byhelicopter to Jackson.

“We were told we may not have him by the time we could getthere,” said Faye Smith, his aunt. “That’s how close he came.”

Moak nodded her agreement gravely. “We actually had a doctortell us we needed to start making (funeral) plans because wewouldn’t have him long. He’s our miracle.”

Rushing was placed in the Silver Cross Home in August 2003 andbegan to recover while undergoing daily treatments for theblastomycosis. He was learning to walk for the third time andslowly regaining his speech.

When Rushing arrived at the facility, he was drawn up,reclusive, hardly responsive and was fed through to a tube.

“They say I looked like a crab,” he said Friday, speakingslowly.

He has regained much of his speech but is still difficult tounderstand at times. He said his first word in October at his 22ndbirthday party when one of his primary nurses, Michelle Brister,gave him a bite of cake. He told her, “More.” When she pulled hispiece of cake, on a rolling tray, from him and turned away, hepulled it back and repeated his request.

“We’ve got our Matt mentally back,” Smith said, “and he isgetting better day by day.”

Now, Moak said, he is impatient to get back to his life.

“He’s looking for a job constantly,” she said. “We took him to arestaurant recently, and he asked them if there was anything a guyin a wheelchair could do there.”

He also wants to attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

“I want to be a grease monkey, a mechanic,” he said.

Rushing left the facility Friday amid a groundswell of joyoustears.

“It’s wonderful,” Brister said, wiping tears from her eyes.”He’s come a long way, and this is what he’s been working for. Henever doubted for a minute he would see today.”

Sissy Johnston, the facility’s social worker, said it was anemotional day for them all because they typically don’t havepatients Rushing’s age.

It was difficult for them at first because they would see theirsons when they went into his room to give him his treatments, shesaid. To keep from crying in front of him, they began doing thetreatments in pairs to provide encouragement to one another.

“He has more than one mother now,” Moak said, beaming.

Doctors predict Rushing will eventually fully regain his speechand be able to walk without assistance, Smith said.

“He still has a long road ahead, but he has progressed so muchin the past year that, with his determination, it suddenly seemsmuch shorter,” Moak said.