The image of a scientist conducting research on himself is a plot element in most superhero stories, as well as the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. These scientists always seem to have the highest and purest of intentions. But something always seems to go catastrophically wrong. Fortunately, this is only a plot point in fiction, right?
It is, isn’t it?
At one point, in the early ’90s, Kevin Parsons had sunken as low as a person could go. He was diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic syndrome (LEMS).
He was a young, brilliant doctor who had been stricken by this rare disease, forcing him to use a wheelchair to get around and suffering from severe depression. For all intents and purposes, he had given up on life.
Not to be deterred, his wife Hillary, stopped pushing Kevin’s wheelchair in the middle of a mall in California. She gave him an ultimatum. She acknowledged the fact that his body had been withered by the disease, but she reminded him that his brilliant mind was still intact.
What is Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic syndrome (LEMS)?
LEMS is an autoimmune disease that attacks the neuromuscular structures of the body. The body’s antibodies identify the nerve cells as foreign bodies and attack. All parts of the body can be affected, usually through the weakening of muscles.
It’s an extremely rare disease, affecting approximately 300 people worldwide. There is little research and even less funding for research into this disease. This void provided Kevin with a goal. By reading the existing research and later conducting laboratory research, Kevin pulled himself back from the brink.
Kevin progressed so much he was able to work three days a week for approximately five hours a day in the lab. He became his own test subject, a human guinea pig, if you will, in order to test various treatment options. When he discovered a combination that worked well for him, he eagerly shared it with others who have LEMS.
Through his research, he established communication with many of those with LEMS all around the world. Seeing a doctor with the disease inspired admiration and respect within the LEMS community as well as the lab where Kevin worked.
Sadly, this tale does not have a Hollywood ending. Kevin Parsons did not find a cure, though he revolutionized the ideas concerning treatment. He passed away in 2009.
This driven scientist did not have a terrible accident that drove him mad. This scientist had a wife whose ultimatum brought him back from the edge.
Read a People magazine profile of Kevin Parsons from 2001 by clicking here.