Eau Claire baseball coach thanks doctors for one in a million diagnosis

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 10:35 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - An Eau Claire baseball coach recognized the doctors who made and treated his one-in-a-million diagnosis Monday night.

Jon Rauch of Eau Claire was diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition that attacks parts of the spinal cord, making it difficult for patients to move. Stiff Person Syndrome has no cure.

“I think I was more terrified of the fact that just hearing something’s incurable,” Jon Rauch, Manager of Eau Claire’s 17-U Legion Baseball Team, said.

After receiving his diagnosis, Rauch began physical therapy with one goal in mind.

“I made a promise back in the hospital that I would be out here by our opening day,” Rauch said.

A promise Rauch’s doctors said he was determined to keep.

“I think it ultimately came down to him wanting to get better, because anyone could have had that great team, but he was motivated and that’s the reason why he is here today,” Dr. Nick De Werd, Prevea Health Physical Therapist, said.

Rauch met that promise, coaching his youth baseball team at last weekend’s opening tournament. Monday night, he recognized the doctors who helped with his treatment and recovery.

Dr. Spears, who diagnosed Rauch with Stiff Person Syndrome, and Dr. De Werd, who helped Rauch with physical therapy, threw the first pitch at the Eau Claire 17-U Legion team’s baseball game.

“It was great to be here for Jon,” Dr. De Werd said. “We don’t get recognized like this very often, so it was pretty cool.”

“I thought he was going to be needing a cane today.” Dr. Eric Spears, Prevea Health Physiatrist, said. “To be honest, he told me he’s been walking without it and it’s kind of hard to believe, but he is. It feels awesome. This is one of the best moments of my career, I think.”

Rauch said he hopes his journey with this rare disease will inspire others.

“I think that’s the most important message I want to get out, is if you work hard enough at something you love, you can make it happen,” Rauch said.

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