SAN ANTONIO - Brad Hauer is an Army veteran, a San Antonio firefighter and a father of six, and he's suffering from a debilitating disease that affects only one in 1 million people.
For the last year and eight months, Hauer has had stiff person syndrome, which is a potentially deadly autoimmune disorder that affects nerves and muscles, creating mass spasms.
Just two weeks ago, he finally found a therapy that seems to be working.
"Thanksgiving Day of 2017, my leg decided to distort in about three different directions. I thought my femur was going to break," Hauer said.
He showed his arms and legs sticking straight out, his hands and feet curling inward.
"What my hands do, they will lock up. My hip cramps, and then it sends my foot. My toes will face the floor, and it's, it's excruciating," he said. "If I had not been as in shape as I was and had as much muscle mass as I had from working out, they said I probably would have died because I would have run out of muscle for my body to eat."
While trying to diagnose him, doctors had to sedate him for more than a month.
"The toll that it's taken on our family — I had to quit my job to take care of him full-time, plus all six kids. He lost part of his pay, lost all of my pay, so it's been pretty rough," said Margo, Hauer's wife.
She said their San Antonio Fire Department family saved them.
"We wouldn't have been able to make it. We had dinners being delivered to us. We had wives just donating items. Chief (Charles) Hood brought this flag up to the hospital when Brad was first sick, and everybody has signed it," Margo said.
After going through a list of medications and therapy attempts, just two weeks ago, doctors inserted a pump into Hauer's back that consistently releases a muscle relaxer called Baclofen.
"The next day, I felt like nothing was wrong with me. I felt like a million dollars. It was amazing," Hauer said.
He's felt "normal" for the full two weeks, and his doctors said in a few months, he can even go back to his job of 13 years.
"Six months after we got married, he got sick. I feel like I'm getting my husband back," Margo said through tears.
Their six brave kids are also getting their dad back.
"It was bad, but now it's normal again," said William, 10.
"I gave him billion of hugs and a billion of kisses," said Elizabeth, 6.
"It's been really hard getting through this, but I've had a lot of people support me and all of our family," said Genevieve, 17.
"Our family really pulled through in this hard time, and I don't know where I'd be without them," said Kaitlyn, 13.
"It's been a rough time going through this hard situation. This family is amazing," said Blake, 11.
The hope is that the pump will continue working long-term. It could remain in Hauer's back forever, only having to be replaced every seven years.
In the meantime, the extended firefighter family continues helping Hauer's family financially. They're helping in one way by selling T-shirts decorated with the SAFD badge and Hauer's name.
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