Moberly teacher pushes the limit American Ninja Warrior-style
MOBERLY - It was his senior year of high school. Kim Welch had everything going for him. He was a star golfer in Blue Springs and was even starting to dabble in boxing.
"He was always so happy. Just so active. Physical fitness was 99.999 percent of who he was," said Sharon Welch, his mother.
Being active played a central role in Kim Welch's life as he put up a list of goals on his door to keep him on track. Others in high school blew things like this off, but he saw it as an important part of growing up.
"It's one of those things they tell you to do and no one does it. And I'm like, 'hey, I'm gonna try that,'" he said. "So I still use the same sheet of paper from my senior year of high school."
When a bone bruise popped up during his senior year, he had to put most of those goals on hold.
"We really thought it was something minor," Sharon Welch said. "We thought once he was on treatment and rested it, that it would turn around and back to doing his normal activities again."
Months went by and Kim Welch's bone bruise on his leg didn't show any progress. He and his family were puzzled.
"He was following what the doctors suggested to a 'T' and it just wasn't going away," his mother said.
Months became a year and worry began to set in. Sharon Welch prepared for the worst.
"My first thought, which is a horrible one, I thought bone cancer. I thought, 'they've missed it.' I thought it would keep spreading. I went so far as to think they were going to take his leg," she said.
Kim Welch, while never giving up hope, did allow doubt to creep into his mind. Doubt gave way to acceptance.
"I know people have life-changing or near-death experiences, and then death doesn't bother them. To me, after that, death didn't bother me at all. If I pass away, I'm prepared," he said.
That doesn't mean he didn't wonder about the short life he was coming to grips with the end of, though.
"I thought, 'if I die in this house, is anyone going to know I'm in here?'" he said.
As things got worse, the family got desperate. They decided getting Kim Welch into the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota was their best shot to find out what was going wrong.
"I really thought that we would get an answer, I really didn't think we would go there and not come out with something," Sharon Welch said.
After three doctors and no more answers, doubt crept in once again.
Sharon Welch said, "It was disheartening. We would go one doctor after the other and he did not match the perfect diagnosis with any of them. We would literally almost have meltdowns at night, going, 'God help us. Please guide us to the right doctor.'"
At last, two years after the bone bruise appeared, the family had some answers: osteoporosis, spondyloarthritis and other medical issues. All treatable; but the osteoporosis is extremely rare for his age.
Sharon Welch said her son's diagnosis has prompted the Mayo Clinic to test younger patients with similar symptoms for osteoporosis. Kim Welch hadn't even been tested for it before; it is so rare in someone as young as 18, that doctors didn't consider it a possibility.
The diagnosis meant a return to an active lifestyle for Kim, although he had to start slow as he eased into treatment for his various conditions.
"It was almost like going back in time, starting the working out," he said. "It got me really motivated. I hadn't been to the gym in forever through this whole period, so I looked forward to it everyday, getting home and going, 'yes, I'm finally getting back in the gym."
His mom and dad also noticed how quickly they got back their boy, who had "the body of an 80-year-old man" during that miserable time in his life.
"My husband and I were sitting there, saying 'we have him back.' Like, oh my, he's going to have a life," Sharon Welch said.
It has been eight years since his diagnosis and Kim Welch has found a treatment and medication regimen that works for him. It isn't easy, but he pushes through it, because he has added another goal to his list: compete on the television show American Ninja Warrior.
A friend at the gym turned him onto the show a few years ago and he has been hooked ever since. He wants to compete and use the show as a way of inspiring his students and showing them what is possible in life.
"I was thinking that would really motivate them. They would say, 'hey, my teacher, he's on American Ninja Warrior, and it's not some person like, oh yeah, someone from Missouri is on American Ninja Warrior. No, my teacher is on American Ninja Warrior.'" Kim said.
Now, he waits for the call from the show. Even if he doesn't get one this year, that won't stop him from trying.
"It's my goal to get on it. And really, until I get on it, pretty much," he said.