The first thing James Overstreet did when he got home from a lengthy hospital stay was “fire up the smoker. Ribs and chicken … and a big pot of pinto beans. That’s what I was wanting and that’s what we cooked.”
Typical JO, living life to the fullest.
Getting back into his routine – and erasing all memories of hospital food – was the mission after treatments to knock down myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune neuromuscular disease that struck him on his way to photograph the season opening Bassmaster Elite Series tournament in Florida.
Causing a breakdown of normal communication between nerves and muscles, myasthenia gravis is a chronic disease that medicine can only slow. Patients usually suffer reoccurrences to varying degrees.
“I’m pretty early into this disease,” said Overstreet, who’s provided stellar images from Bassmaster events since 2006. “There’s no cure for it. It basically can attack any of your voluntary muscles, your legs, your arms. Some cases it can get on your diaphragm muscle where you can’t breathe. They call it the snowflake disease because no two patients are the same.
“Chances are I’m probably most likely going to be hospitalized from it again. Odds are pretty great. These treatments only last for so long, then I’ll have medications I’ll take for the rest of my life that will help.”
Overstreet, who has crossed the country taking spectacular outdoor photos, was forced to miss the first events he’d been scheduled to work. Last Monday, he left Baptist Hospital in Little Rock feeling strong and hoping to work next month’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Editor's note: See JO's Best Photos of 2016.
There were signs that something wasn’t quite right – fatigue, not being able to chew. Then it hit hard.
Overstreet and writer Steve Wright had landed in Jacksonville heading to the Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River. Not able to eat, JO threw his sandwich in the trash. Then driving down to Palatka, his vision went awry and he had to pull over. Wright finished the drive but once at the hotel, Overstreet realized he needed more than just rest.
Hearing his symptoms, Hunter, his son who works in the Baptist ER, told him to get to a hospital with a neurological department. Wright drove him back to Jacksonville, where he was admitted. Doctors ruled out other possibilities, like a stroke, and quickly pinpointed MG. They only allowed him to fly home if he promised to check into the hospital for treatment.
Every other day, Overstreet went to a room for intravenous immunoglobulin. Through a port in his upper chest, an eight-pack of the antibodies – he said it looked like beer – was sent through his veins for four hours. After each of the five doses, he progressed. It cleared his double vision and eye droop, which had him wearing an eye patch, as well as muscle weakness, which allowed him to chew and swallow. He went home definitely feeling stronger but still tired from not sleeping well. From a post on his Facebook page, you could hear JO’s pithy, country twang known to thousands of B.A.S.S. fans:
“Man, is my insurance company gonna be pissed about my choice of accommodations.”
Yet he felt strong enough to think he’ll be able to work the Classic.