Local family pulls together to fight a rare disorder

Within days, local man Keith Fenner went from being completely healthy to living in the intensive care unit — unable to move. He was diagnosed with a rare disorder.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Keith Fenner and his son James are sharing their first steps together. It’s been about 3 months since Keith was first diagnosed with a rare condition – Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Keith Fenner in Hospital

Keith Fenner in Hospital

It began with tingling in his hands and feet and then the loss of feeling in his legs, his symptoms were progressively worsening. He knew something was terribly wrong.

“It was numb from pretty much my head to my toes. My eyes didn’t close when I tried sleeping, and so I’ve had to go through speech therapy. It affected my swallowing. It was pretty crazy. It affects all of your muscles in your body, ” says Keith. 

 After extensive testing they diagnosed the condition and began a number of treatments. G.B.S is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nervous system. Keith had to relearn all the functions he used in every day life.

Keith Fenner & wife Kara

Keith Fenner & wife Kara

Kara Fenner, Keith’s wife, says, “It’s  just been one milestone after milestone. Little things are huge deals in our lives. Keith’s been working on his arm strength so he can lift the son again — that was a big deal … Just this past week he’s been able to stand on his own and finally hug me. He had been in a hospital bed for the last two months and not being able to have any physical contact with your husband, you know, like you have that full embrace, just really was important to me.”

Keith works as a corrections officer at the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and plans on getting back to work once he fully  recovers. The couple says it has been a long and challenging road, but the support of those around them has made the journey more bearable.

Keith says, “The Sheriff’s Office, they’ve been a big support to me. The support from my wife, from my son — she’s been a trooper. She’s been able to be up here every day that I’ve been here.”

Kara says,“Then the support started rolling in from his coworkers once they realize what was going on and what he was diagnosed with. We could not have done this without a family, friends and our communities, our workplaces — we could not have gone through this at all, without all that.”

Keith, Kara, & James Fenner

Keith, Kara, & James Fenner

The Fenners are walking away from this experience with a new perspective on life.  As Kara puts it, “A person will really take your health for granted until something like this happens. We could never have anticipated something like this happening to us, you just kinda got a ride it out — get through it.”

Keith is expected to be released from Regional Rehab April 17 and will continue therapy until he makes a full recovery. 

Categories: Faces in the Crowd, Local News