By Larry Briscoe
Larry Pare has spent a lifetime helping other people feel better. He was at a loss, however, for the past six or seven weeks how to help himself.
Finally, the answer came this week on why he felt so bad. “The diagnosis is West Nile Disease.”
Larry spent these agonizing weeks with severe headaches, severe stomachaches and an assortment of related maladies that had him at death’s door.
“I couldn’t even look at food in the refrigerator without getting sick,” he said.
Larry first knew something was wrong about the first of September while raking and cleaning up at his L&R Ranch, Happy Trails Therapeutic Riding.
“All of a sudden, I felt kind of dizzy,” Pare said. “I sat down awhile and then drove home. I felt weak-like. I couldn’t eat anything. Everything tasted like sand in my mouth.”
“My wife tried everything under the sun,” Larry said, all types of soup and other food. “Nothing tasted or smelled right.”
This went on for five or six days before he decided to see his doctor.
“I felt weaker and weaker,” Larry said. “He sent me to the emergency room. They took blood and did all kinds of tests. They said I seemed to be dehydrated and let me go.”
But the symptoms persisted.
He went back to see his doctor a second time. The doctor sent him back to the emergency room for more tests and then back home.
After seven to nine more days of laying on the couch, unable to eat or drink.
The symptoms persisted. His wife Rhella was ready for something to help. “Rhella got very upset. She said, ‘I’m not going to let you lay here and die.’”
Larry returned to the doctor for a third time.
“I told him, ‘I don’t know what is wrong with me.’”
A nurse probably helped Larry by validating his condition when she said, “No one can tell you you’re not sick. No nurse, no doctor. Only you know how you feel.”
“They put me through the MRI and other tests,” Larry said.
This time, they discovered his white corpuscle count was high, indicating an infection in his stomach. The diagnosis was probable gastroenteritis.
“They thought it might be doing something to my kidneys,” he said. He was admitted to the hospital.
“I had the intravenous, all kinds of things like that,” Larry said. He remained in the hospital for six days when he decided he was feeling a little better.
“Little by little, I started feeling better,” he said. “The only thing now is I get dizzy. I get starry-eyed very easily.”
Rhella visited her doctor this week for her annual physical exam. The doctor had asked while Larry was in the hospital if they wanted the West Nile Disease test done. Rhella answered, “Yes.”
While getting her physical, the doctor reported Larry’s test results had come back positive.
Larry cannot remember any particular mosquito bite — the means of contracting West Nile Disease. But then, he works outside most of the time with his horses.
The Pares moved to Texas from Connecticut in 1994.
Larry has had a lifelong desire to work with horses.
Larry made it happen as a young kid in about 1938. The nearest horses to his home in Plainville, Conn., were nine miles north at a riding stable.
“I started going up there every day after school,” he said. “I had to clean 28 stalls and get the horses ready for customers before I could even sit on a horse.”
He stuck with it and was able to open the first stable of his own in 1959, “Level Acres Ranch.” The name derived from the seven and a half acres of flat land without hills.
“I always maintained 22 to 28 head,” he said.
In the early 1960s, Larry was approached by a husband and wife — she was a physical therapist and he, a social worker. Both had physical handicaps. Both had read about and were familiar with hippotherapy.
They approached Larry about the subject since they knew he worked with horses. She walked with double canes because of double hip replacement, and he suffered severe spasms because of his disabilities.
“I was just an old horse trainer and didn’t know anything about it, but I was willing to learn,” Pare said. He contacted a German doctor who specialized in the field and became deeply involved. Physical therapists began referring patients to him.
“Nothing in the world does what a horse does in forward motion,” he said and described the physical mechanics that copy human movements.
Larry uses that motion as therapy for many physical as well as mental challenges. He has worked with blind and deaf children as well as autistic in addition to those with physical problems.
Pare has been recognized by the professional associations for his achievements. He was instrumental in establishing the Special Olympics program at Yale University. He is the president of the Lake Tawakoni Regional Chamber of Commerce. Rhella volunteers at the Lake Area Shared Ministries food pantry.
The Pares celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on Saturday. They have two daughters, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren.