Elite

Daily Limit: Card on the mend in hospital

The holidays have been more distressing than delightful for Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Card, who is hospitalized battling viral meningitis and Bell’s palsy.

Card, the 2012 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, hopes the intravenous antiviral medicines allow his release sometime this week. Card said he wants to get back into his own bed to heal further while finalizing preparations for the 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series opener on Feb. 16.

“It’s only going to get better from here,” Card said. “I think I’m going to be able to fight this off. And I really want to make it a point to start off the year strong.”

Card said the ailment hit him hard. He and wife, Kelly, enjoyed their second Christmas with son, Davis. The next day, Card woke up with a severe headache and neck pain. 

“I have headaches all the time, but this one felt different,” said Card, who then endured a drive from Salisbury, N.C., for a late family Christmas in Knoxville, Tenn.

Tests at an urgent care facility there eliminated COVID and the flu, but over-the-counter analgesics weren’t providing much relief. Despite remaining in pain, Card said he roughed out a practice session on the Tennessee River, site of the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic.

“On the 30th, there were two days left to practice for the Classic,” he said. “I actually went and practiced half a day with all of this going on. I felt terrible, but I wanted to get some extra practice in.”

Card had to cancel Christmas with his dad the next day, and on New Year’s Day, instead of driving home, he was taken to the emergency room in Knoxville.

“I thought for sure they’d crack the code at the ER,” he said. “They did an MRI and a few other things. They said there’s no reason to sit at the hospital with a headache, so you’re free to go.”

“I thought you’ve got to be kidding. I’m just shocked those doctors didn’t test for it. They kind of rushed me out.”

Card then braced for a “brutal” drive home, where by a stroke of good fortune he would finally find relief.

“My neighbor happens to be an infectious disease doctor,” he said. “Literally, my next-door neighbor. I saw her at her house and within five minutes, she told me what I had. She’s just good.”

Dr. Tedra Claytor helped Card get officially diagnosed, admitted to Atrium Health Concord and on the path to recovery.

“There are hundreds of viruses that can turn into viral meningitis,” Card said. “The one that caused mine was the shingles virus, which is one of the more serious ones. The good news is the antiviral mediation works for this version of viral meningitis.”

While the meningitis caused debilitating headaches and soreness, Bell’s palsy severely weakened the muscles on the right side of his face. Card can’t shut that eye, which he manipulates to blink and has taped shut at times.

“It’s paralyzed. Your eye is wide open. When I try to blink, the eyelid does not close. My right eye gets taped shut so I can sleep,” he said. “I’ll manually blink my eye with my fingers. I’m using a lot of eyedrops, too.”

Adding insult is that his right eye has far superior vision than his left. Physical therapy for the Bell’s palsy can help, Card said, but he’s been informed it might take a while to clear up totally.

“I’m just praying and trying to stay positive,” he said. “My wife is my ultimate coach, speaking God’s truth and lifting me up. She’s been praying night and day.”

Card’s mother and brother, as well as Kelly’s mother, have also been helping out, and Card said he wouldn’t mind the B.A.S.S. family thinking of him.

“I could use all the prayers I can get,” he said. “Once I get home, I’ll be on antivirals in a pill form for quite some time. And then just trying to get caught up on rest and sleep, but at the same time do some physical therapy for Bell’s palsy and get my eyesight going again.”

“I don’t want to get all negative. My hope is that I’ll be back feeling good enough to compete … Back to 100% might take a while. I’m getting weaker just sitting in this room.”

Fortunately, Card said his boat is squared away, but he had allocated this time to work on gear for the Florida swing. He also hoped to spend more time on the Classic fishery, where he should be among the favorites since he lived on the lake.

“I’m looking forward to this Classic for sure,” he said. “It’s pretty wild growing up in east Tennessee, being a little kid watching The Bassmasters on TV and now fishing there. Obviously, I missed the first one in Knoxville. That was brutal. I’m so thankful I qualified for this one.”

Card had a roller coaster season before settling for 41st place in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, three spots inside the Classic cutline. After a hot start in Florida, Card fell deep in the points when he couldn’t top 75th in the next three tournaments. He had a great late-season run, making cuts in the final four events and jumping inside the Classic cut in the final event with a 21st at the Mississippi River. Card, who will be competing in his sixth Classic, finished fourth in the 2021 Elite event on the Tennessee River.

Card said he found it ironic that veteran Elite pro Mark Menendez went through a similar ailment in 2005. Like Card, Menendez had experienced an excruciating headache that was diagnosed as meningitis and required a weeklong hospital stay and lengthy recovery.

“It’s interesting,” Card said. “I remember I was 19, and I was a bass junkie just like I am now, and I read all about it. And it’s just crazy, here I am, so many years later, literally going through the same thing.”