Rowan man walking again after mystery illness left him paralyzed

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2012

GRANITE QUARRY — Just a little more than two years ago, Kim Goble was lying paralyzed in a hospital bed.

Doctors couldn’t explain what was wrong with the 40-year-old Rockwell resident. His wife, Marcela, didn’t know if he would ever recover.

Today, Kim’s doctors call him a “walking miracle,” he said. He is back on his feet and talking again with his family.

The Gobles, who have since moved to Granite Quarry, still have no diagnosis — no explanation for what suddenly paralyzed him two years ago.

After he was featured in a Salisbury Post article on Nov. 28, 2010, phone calls and emails poured in with suggestions about conditions Kim could have.

“I had a notebook for that. Every time, no matter where it came from, I’d write it down and take it to the doctors and say, ‘Can it be this? Can it be that?’ ” Marcela said in an interview this week. “One by one, they’d say, ‘Nope, that’s not it.’ ”

The doctors ran all the tests they could think of, including a toxicology screen and a brain biopsy, Marcela said.

Kim said his family doctor told him that sometimes there’s just no explanation for cases like this.

“He said it happened, and they could study it for months or years and never come up with what happened,” Kim said.

The doctors found a very small tumor on his kidney during a PET (positron emission topography) scan, Marcela said. They were able to destroy it in the hospital. Later checkups have found no sign of cancer.

“What happened to him was bad, but in a weird way, it was also a blessing,” she said. “If that hadn’t happened to him… he was developing kidney cancer, and they would have never found it.”

In late October 2010, Marcela noticed that her husband was acting strangely. He would say things that didn’t make sense, she said, and his easygoing personality suddenly turned more aggressive.

After a few days, she took Goble to Rowan Regional Medical Center for evaluation. On Nov. 4, he had a seizure there that paralyzed him.

He was transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where he was placed on a respirator and feeding tube for a couple of days. When Kim began breathing on his own, he still couldn’t speak and could only move his eyes.

Throughout the next month, as doctors ran a barrage of tests and tried several different treatments, he began to improve slowly.

“One of the nurses there told me, ‘We had one woman just like him who got up and walked out of here,’ ” Marcela said. “She said they never told her what was wrong, and they never found out what was wrong. That was it.”

Marcela, who had spent weeks holding onto hope, was still skeptical.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, right. There’s no way somebody that’s as bad as him…’ I had already had it in my head, ‘I’ll have to take care of him,’ ” she said. “I didn’t mind it, I just wanted him with me.”

Marcela said a treatment involving filtering Kim’s blood and inserting synthetic plasma seemed to kick-start his recovery.

By mid-December, Kim was capable of limited speech and movement, and doctors recommended that he start physical and speech therapy.

Out of three area rehabilitation facilities, only one, the J. Paul Sticht Center in Winston-Salem, said it could handle someone in Kim’s condition.

On his second day there, Marcela arrived to find him sitting up in a wheelchair and eating a meal with the other patients. “I just about started crying,” she said. “That place is unbelievable.”

Kim said he doesn’t remember any of his time as a hospital inpatient. His first memories in December are from his rehabilitation, when he felt disoriented and confused.

“The last thing I remember, I was walking up into the house,” he said.

He does remember a woman at the rehab center helping him on the day Marcela saw him sit up.

“She said, ‘Let’s get you sitting up so you can see the Christmas lights outside,’ ” Goble said.

A rigorous therapy program helped Kim relearn to talk, walk and use fine motor skills. He said he got frustrated sometimes.

“I mean, you’re weak. You have a hard time remembering,” Kim said. “They kept me busy. … And they were super good people.”

He came home Jan. 12, 2010, and continued outpatient rehabilitation at Rowan Regional Physical Therapy in Salisbury.

Now, the only medication Kim is taking is Ritalin, to help stimulate brain activity.

Kim still has occasional spells of weakness in his legs, which the doctors have attributed to mini-strokes, or transient ischemic attacks. He had experienced these spells for a few years before his hospital stay, and they were the reason he left his job with Freightliner in 2007.

Marcela has since begun working as a babysitter for her neighbor’s daughter, so that she can stay at home with her husband.

Even without the answers they desperately wanted, the Gobles both say that they’re blessed to be where they are. Their daughters, Brittney, 21, and Addison, 13, can now talk to their father and spend Christmas together at home.

Marcela invites anyone going through a similar situation to send her an email at

“Anybody who’s going through something like that, I’d just tell them to pray,” she said, “and not give up.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.