Recuperating resident Driscoll home at last

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After more than four months in the hospital, Don Driscoll had a well thought-out cooking list for his wife, Betty.

No. 1: T-bone steak. No. 2: Roast beef. No. 3: Honey-glazed ham. No. 4: Pork chops.

"I wanted vegetables, too. That was just the meat I wanted with them," Don said, attempting to justify his carnivorous list as he strolled around in the lush green grass in his back yard Monday.

Don lost much of his strength and endurance with the 67 pounds he lost after being admitted to Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center on Oct. 29 after weeks of feeling ill. After several tests, doctors determined that he had been suffering from West Nile virus, lymphoma and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

In the month since returning home, Don has progressed each week, from a wheelchair, to a walker, now to a cane. It's a far cry from a couple of months ago when he was so weak he couldn't roll over in bed and was partially paralyzed.

"I feel good," Don said of his recovery. "My endurance and strength is limited and I get tired quickly, but I'm getting better every day."

"It's been wonderful to have my best friend back home," Betty said. "It's exciting to watch him improve."

Don describes his life during December and January as helpless. He couldn't eat, so he was force-fed through a stomach tube.

"I was conscious the whole time, but there were times when I was so sick and under so many painkillers, I didn't care what was happening to me," he said.

At one point, Don was so weak that he almost choked to death because he couldn't push his bed-side button to call a nurse. He managed to whisper "help" to a passer-by who heard him and yelled a more audible "help!"

"That was the first time I was scared for my life," Don said. "That was the scariest part of the whole stay, and there were a lot of scary times. I thought, 'Is this the way I will live the rest of my life?'"

He wasn't sure he would live through the sickness.

The paralysis was a result of Guillain-Barre syndrome. According to Guillain-Barre Syndrome Foundation International, the disease is the most common cause of rapidly acquired paralysis in the United States today, affecting 1 to 2 people in every 100,000.

Doctors worked to strengthen Don's immune system to fight his cancer, but the Guillain-Barre also was hampering their efforts. Guillain-Barre syndrome affects the nervous system and the immune system and caused Don's immune system to fight itself.

Don survived as machines assisted his organs in filtering his blood and helping him breathe.

Each month in the hospital cost the Driscoll family more than $100,000, much of which was covered by insurance. The Driscolls also received some unexpected financial help from the people of Hayden, who came together through fund-raisers, a benefit concert and raffles, and raised almost $8,000 to offset the bills.

Most of the money contributed to the "Don Driscoll Fund" came from raffles at Hayden High School basketball games. Raffle tickets were sold for $5 apiece for a basketball signed by basketball team members, including Don's son, Dustin.

Don thanks everyone who helped him physically and spiritually during the past few months, especially his wife, who visited him every weekend but one, when she was sick herself.

"At first, it was long and hard not knowing what was going to happen," Betty said. "The drive seemed like a short drive to Craig toward the end, but the hardest part was having to come back home."

Just before leaving the hospital, Don had his last chemotherapy session. Fuzz is growing back on his head, and he's not due back for another checkup until July. His cancer is in remission, and he has gained back almost half of the weight he lost.

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