Ben­e­fit to help man suf­fer­ing from Lyme dis­ease

Kingston Whig-Standard - - FORUM - PA­TRICK KENNEDY Pa­trick Kennedy is a for­mer Whig-Stan­dard writer. He lives in Kingston.

Once was a time when lo­cal drum­mer Gary Paquin played the skins six nights a week, vir­tu­ally year­round, and made a de­cent liv­ing per­form­ing with lo­cal bands and tour­ing with name bands such as Matt Min­gle­wood and the late Terry Sum­sion. He was skilled, loved mu­sic, loved the ca­reer, the peo­ple, the life­style, although he ad­mit­tedly loved the lat­ter a tad too much. And when that jeop­ar­dous ex­is­tence caught up with him, he did the right thing and sought help, got his life back on track, and played clean and sober the next 20 years.

Then in 2013, his health started to in­ex­pli­ca­bly spi­ral down­wards, un­rav­el­ling slowly at first, then re­gress­ing with alarm­ing alacrity, and this time the prob­lem wasn’t “self-in­flicted.” As the weeks and months passed, his con­di­tion wors­ened to the point he could no longer make it through one song, let alone an en­tire set.

Now 57, the once-tire­less “tubthumper” who gigged with bands some 300 days a year in his salad days can only play for a few min­utes, and even that pushes the pain en­ve­lope. He rarely plays any­way, fo­cused in­stead on some­thing em­i­nently more im­por­tant — namely, stay­ing alive.

The cul­prit be­hind his tor­ment? A bite from a tiny tick that, Paquin sus­pects, hitched a ride into his Sy­den­ham res­i­dence aboard one of his cats roughly five years ago. The drum­mer de­vel­oped Lyme dis­ease, and later Parkin­son’s, and his life has been a liv­ing hell ever since.

“I started feel­ing fa­tigued for no rea­son and my eyes got tired and I be­gan hav­ing trou­ble see­ing,” the lo­cal na­tive re­counted the early symp­toms. He never saw the tick, never even knew where it bit him, as there was no sign of the tell­tale ring that forms around the bite mark af­ter­wards. “I gen­er­ally just felt un­well and couldn’t fig­ure out why.”

Ini­tial tests for the dis­ease came back neg­a­tive, yet his health con­tin­ued to de­te­ri­o­rate. Frus­trated by the de­layed di­ag­no­sis, two years later, on his own dime, he had him­self tested at a spe­cial lab in Cal­i­for­nia. The re­sults re­vealed enough pos­i­tive mark­ers to clas­sify the prob­lem as Lyme dis­ease, which had been given a dan­ger­ous head start.

Once home, Paquin had a PICC line in­serted and com­menced a 21-day an­tibi­otic treat­ment, which had lit­tle over­all ef­fect. “It was a joke,” he stated flatly.

He con­tin­ued to suf­fer re­cur­ring mus­cle freez­ing, tremors and cramp­ing. He put his mu­si­cian ca­reer on hold. “The brain was say­ing go ahead and play, but my body wouldn’t let me.”

To com­pli­cate mat­ters fur­ther, he was soon af­ter di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s. “I took main­stream phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, but all they did was make me sick and put me in hos­pi­tal three dif­fer­ent times.”

Vis­its to a natur­opath pro­vided some re­lief, he noted, but he was re­ally no bet­ter, and in fact get­ting worse.

Mean­while, the med­i­cal bills kept mount­ing, be­tween $500 and $600 monthly out-of-pocket costs, and the lat­est ex­pense is a pa­tient­funded, one-time cost of $10,000 for an up­com­ing stem cell treat­ment in Van­cou­ver.

“I’ve sold my ve­hi­cles, my mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, used my sav­ings, what in­vest­ments I had, pretty much liq­ui­dated as much as I pos­si­bly could just to keep up with the bills,” he pointed out. “I’ve also re­ceived won­der­ful help from my fam­ily and lo­cal mu­si­cians, for which I’m very grate­ful.”

Speak­ing of the lat­ter, dozens of them will be Zor­bas Ban­quet Fa­cil­ity on Sun­day, Nov. 18, for a ben­e­fit in sup­port of the pop­u­lar drum­mer, who will un­dergo the stem cell pro­ce­dure the fol­low­ing day in Van­cou­ver.

“The poor guy is com­pletely 180 de­grees from where he used to be,” noted long­time friend Ted Young, who years ago played with Paquin in the band Hick­ory Wind.

“He’s the best drum­mer I ever played with as far as tim­ing, beat, im­pro­vis­ing, rhythm, things like that. For most peo­ple, mu­sic is a hobby; for Gary, it’s a pro­fes­sion, one that’s been taken away from him.”

The stem cell treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to the Van­cou­ver Stem Cell Treat­ment Cen­tre’s web­site, is de­scribed as a “com­plex process in which a pa­tient’s own cells are har­vested and used to fight against de­gen­er­a­tion, in­flam­ma­tion and gen­eral is­sue dam­age.” The ob­jec­tive is to “re­store func­tion and re­duce pain.

The treat­ment is not cov­ered un­der health in­sur­ance, nor is there any sure-fire guar­an­tee it will work.

“Gary’s been strug­gling far too long with this,” lamented Ernie Smith, co-or­ga­nizer of the ben­e­fit at Zor­bas who back in the day played with Paquin’s dad, Fred, in the Fred Paquin Orches­tra. “It’s a cry­ing shame to see what that Lyme dis­ease has done to an oth­er­wise am­bi­tious, lik­able fel­low who also hap­pens to be one hell of a mu­si­cian.”

Paquin and per­cus­sion were in­tro­duced when he was 11. He was hooked from the get-go. “My dad’s band would play the [Prince Ge­orge Ho­tel] on Satur­day nights and I’d be there Sun­day morn­ing help­ing to tear down the equip­ment and I’d get to fool around on the drums.”

His in­ter­est spiked in high school at Fron­tenac Sec­ondary School, where he learned to read and write mu­sic and started jam­ming in friends’ base­ments be­fore join­ing his dad’s band, Spe­cial Blend, at age 16. He started his own band, the four-piece Rockin’ Horse, and later toured with Sum­sion and Min­gle­wood, the lat­ter for three years.

Life on the road, how­ever, ex­acted a steep toll. “I fell into the rock ‘n’ roll pit­falls,” he re­called can­didly, “and I crashed in ’93 from al­co­hol and drug abuse.” He en­tered a detox unit, straight­ened out and has sam­pled nei­ther prod­uct since.

A Type 1 di­a­betic most of his life, in 1993 he also started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing di­a­betes-re­lated vi­sion im­pair­ment and un­der­went mul­ti­ple laser pro­ce­dures in a span of six months. “I liken my­self to the cat with nine lives,” he said, laugh­ing lightly. “I’ve used up a few, bounc­ing back from so many things.”

The Zor­bas ben­e­fit is billed Gary Paquin’s Lyme Dis­ease Fight. Ernie Smith came up with a poignant sub­ti­tle by tin­ker­ing with a time­honoured adage. “You’ve heard the say­ing, ‘a friend in need is a friend in­deed,’” he said. “Well, I just switched around a cou­ple of words: ‘A Friend In­deed is a Friend in Need.’ We’ll get it go­ing at 1 p.m. and run un­til 6…7…8 o’clock, what­ever it takes.”

Co-or­ga­nizer Rick Pilon, an­other fast friend and Paquin’s band­mate in Printer’s Al­ley, said he em­pathizes with his pal’s strug­gles. In 2007, Pilon was stricken with Guil­lain-Barre syn­drome, a rapi­don­set mus­cle weak­ness caused by the im­mune sys­tem dam­ag­ing the pe­riph­eral ner­vous sys­tem.

“Like Gary, it was some­thing that hap­pened to me right out of the blue,” said the ver­sa­tile mu­si­cian who tem­po­rar­ily lost the abil­ity to play his in­stru­ments, though he even­tu­ally re­cov­ered. “I know what he’s go­ing through. It’s pretty scary for a mu­si­cian.”

Paquin’s last band be­fore he set aside the sticks was one fronted by Kingston na­tive Rob Carnegie, who for 10 years moon­lighted as the city’s di­rec­tor of tourism, a ti­tle he now holds in Florence, Ga.

“Gary’s an out­stand­ing drum­mer and an out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual who worked hard and al­ways tried to give back,” Carnegie said. “For the dis­ci­pline and courage he showed in turn­ing his life around, I ad­mire him not just as a mu­si­cian but as an in­di­vid­ual and a friend.” A friend in need. (A GoFundMe page has been set up for Paquin at www.gofundme. com/gary-paquin039s-ly­meparkin­son. )

IAN MACALPINE/THE WHIG-STAN­DARD

Brian Paquin of Sy­den­ham shows off his drum­ming skills in Kingston on Thurs­day Novem­ber, 8 2018.

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