CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
After being diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and sinking into a year-long depression, David Kyle began exercising and now competes in triathlons. He will compete in tomorrow's event here.
Passion for staying active aids triathlete in fight against MS
David Kyle woke up one morning to find he was paralyzed from the waist down. The condition went away, he said, and a doctor told him he had nothing to worry about and would be OK.
But after another attack of numbness a few months later on his right side, a different doctor diagnosed him with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
That was four years ago. Now the 33-year-old Huntsville, Ala., man will be competing for the gold in tomorrow's triathlon.
MS is a chronic, progressive disease of the central nervous system, causing cognitive, sensory and motor impairment. Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form.
Kyle said he gained a lot of weight and was fatigued. "I couldn't do anything active. I was walking with a cane. I couldn't play with my kids. ... It's a very demoralizing disease.
"People kind of roll over and give up," he said. "That's the way I was the first year. Having MS is just horrible. It got worse physically, but a lot of it is emotional."
It was especially hard on him not being able to play with his three kids, now ages, 3, 6 and 15, he said.
Then, with family support, he decided, "I've got to fight this."
Although he was a youth pastor and physical education teacher, he basically had been sedentary, he said: "I knew I was stacking up problems if I remained sedentary. I knew I had to do something."
He started exercising, riding a bike, watching his diet and taking daily injections of the multiple sclerosis drug COPAXONE.
Kyle, who now works in physical education at the University of Alabama, became so passionate about health and fitness that he began training and competing in races and triathlons in the physically challenged division.
"A lot of the multiple sclerosis is still there, but being fit has really helped as far as managing symptoms," he said. "It's just part of your life."
He became involved in the MS Society in Alabama and talks to groups wherever he goes, advocating exercise and fitness as good therapy.
"It's tough mentally. People give up; they have no hope, but I encourage people." Not everyone can do triathlons, he said, but many activities can be beneficial, such as water aerobics.
Kyle won major races last year, including first place in the USA Nationals in the physically challenged division.
He applied to be part of the USA Triathlon Paralympic Development Team, made up of people with physical limitations. He is the only member with MS.
He spoke at bike rides in recent weeks in Alabama and Tennessee, trying to encourage people to be active and take care of themselves.
Tomorrow's JAL Honolulu ITU Triathlon World Championships will be Kyle's fourth triathlon this year and his 10th in two years. It includes a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 12-kilometer run.
He trains intensively five days a week and rests one day.
His wife, Heather, is here with him, assisting as his handler, he said.
"It's such a different world than 10 or 15 years ago," he said. "They told people (with MS) to just go home and go to bed."