HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Nov. 7, 2005

Dassel couple showered with support during health crisis

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Ralph and Sharon Radke were showered with help and support from the Dassel community after Ralph’s medical crisis this winter.

“The whole town really needs to pat themselves on the back,” Sharon said Oct. 10 in an interview outlining the help their neighbors provided.

The Retired Volunteers In Christ’s Service, RVICS, of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Dassel, for example, built a wheelchair ramp, widened doorways, installed handicap-accessible bathroom fixtures and painted the bedroom walls in the Radke home at 150 Linhart Avenue.

Church members, neighbors, and even strangers at Dassel’s Red Rooster Days festival helped in ways Sharon called “stupendous,” after Ralph became paralyzed from the chest down.

The official cause of Ralph’s paralysis is still a mystery.

“It was Feb. 6, 2005. Ralph and I were headed home after church. Ralph looked at me and said that his left hind quarter was feeling numb,” Sharon said in a written account about his condition. The Radkes, who are originally from Blaine, thought Ralph just needed to see a chiropractor. After several treatments, Ralph’s pain in his spine and paralysis became worse.

On Feb. 12, Ralph’s health had declined so precipitously he had to be taken by ambulance, with flashing lights and wailing siren, to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in the Twin Cities, Sharon wrote.

Ralph was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the sheath around the spinal cord. The swelling squeezes the nerves so they become numb, resulting in paralysis. The area just above the inflammation is excruciatingly painful, Ralph said.

Ralph received steroid treatments, and then his blood plasma was replaced with artificial plasma. Neither treatment worked. The paralysis and pain spread, upward from his legs to just under his arms, Sharon said.

Doctors and neurologists had no idea what caused the myelitis or how to stop it. When Ralph was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, however, he was treated with immuno globulin. The paralysis’ spread stopped and he started to improve. He returned to Dassel and entered the Lakeside Nursing Home on March 28, where doctors and nurses brought the pain under control.

Ralph came home to Linhart Avenue July 3. Because Ralph didn’t improve until he received the immuno globulin, the Radkes personally believe a pneumonia vaccination he had six weeks before the inflammation started, was the cause of the myelitis.

“We have to look at this as another adventure,” Sharon said. “If he does walk again, it will be because of God, and (Ralph’s) hard work.”

Although, the official cause of the disease is unknown, the Radkes are sure that the community of Dassel was wonderful throughout the entire ordeal, Sharon said while dabbing the tears from her eyes.

In addition to prayer support, members of their church called everyday, Sharon said. They also visited Ralph in the hospital, even when he was in Rochester. When Sharon needed to get back to Dassel from Rochester, Judy and Wally Compton drove to Rochester and picked her up, Sharon said

Also, Wally, who is a carpenter, led the RVICS in building a ramp, widening the bathroom and bedroom doorways, and taking the window out of the kitchen so a roll-in shower could be installed in the bathroom.

“We have marvelous neighbors next door,” Sharon said of Michelle and Dave Johnson. The Johnsons snow plowed, snowblowed, checked the house while they were out of town, and collected their mail, Sharon said.

Marlene Blunt, a former therapist, came morning and night to the Radke home, supporting Sharon in caring for Ralph. “Anytime I need her, all I have to do is call,” Sharon said.

Other neighbors, Maribel and Roger Gilmer, helped with whatever needed doing, even if it was something small like replacing the line in a weed whip, Sharon said.

Ralph called Roger a “spur-of-the-moment, backyard handyman.”

Surprisingly, many of the Radkes’ helpers are well into their 80s. Retired people often have more time and, with age, comes know-how, Ralph said.

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