Thursday, February 11, 2016

He's flying toward help, tonight

Soldier flying to Walter Reed, thanks to the Daily News.

He's flying toward help, tonight

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U.S. Army Spec. Richie Gegeckas is headed for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. D.C. for leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of infected sand flies in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Spec. Richie Gegeckas is headed for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. D.C. for leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of infected sand flies in Afghanistan.

Good news for U.S. Army Spec. Richie Gegeckas.

By midnight tonight, Gegeckas should be on a military medical-transport plane out of northern Afghanistan, headed for Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. D.C.  Hopefully, he will get the care at Walter Reed that he's not been getting at his base in Afghanistan, where he contracted leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease caused by the bite of infected sand flies.

As I wrote in my column on Tuesday, Gegeckas' case of the flesh-eating disease has steadily worsened since it first made its nasty appearance in early September.  A hideous-looking sore the width of a lemon and almost a half-inch deep had opened on his thigh; a smaller one ravaged his calf. Gegeckas has lost 15 pounds in the past two weeks, his lymph glands are swollen and he is having trouble walking. No one on his base seemed to know how to treat the disease, which prompted his mom, Philly Police Ofc. Robin Zaborowski, to contact the Daily News for help.

Within 24 hours of Richie's story hitting print in the Daily News, he learned he was to be sent to Walter Reed. After an initial stop at a military hospital in Germany, he will be admiited to Water Reed, where he'll spend four to five weeks so he he can be monitored as he recieves meds to treat his disease.  Walter Reed's infectious-diseases expert told me that the drugs can cause severe side effects - pancreatitis, hepatitis and abnormal heart rhythms among them - so thank goodness he'll be in a place that has handled leishmaniasis before.

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Zaborowski told me today how relieved she is (me, too) that her son's condition will finally get the attention it needs.

If you get to read this, Spec. Gegeckas, godspeed and get well soon. And thank you for your service.

Daily News Columnist
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When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

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Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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