Art Hains Update: Family says road to recovery slowly improving but challenging

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:29 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:39 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s one of the most perplexing and unsettling health stories the Ozarks has dealt with in 2022.

Well-known and much-loved broadcaster Art Hains, the pre-and-postgame host on the Chiefs Radio Network and long-time Voice of the Missouri State Bears, was seemingly healthy when he traveled down to Fayetteville on September 17 to cover the Bears football game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. But by the time he headed home, he was losing the feeling in his legs, and within the next couple of days, his family was told that he would not survive.

“Watching him gasp for air was just horrifying,” said Hain’s son Chris.

When a delayed diagnosis was finally made, it turned out Hanes had been paralyzed by the mosquito-transmitted West Nile Virus.

”It’s just mind-blowing that a mosquito bite can practically take your life,” Chris Hains said. “Fortunately, it hasn’t taken his life, but it’s taken a lot from him and a lot from us.”

A member of three Halls of Fame (Springfield, Missouri Sports, and Missouri State Athletic), Art’s sudden illness shocked his family and friends. After all, who hasn’t been bitten by a mosquito? And while most people are aware of the West Nile Virus, few knew it could be this serious.

“The virus itself got into the spinal cord, which is what makes it life-threatening and also rare,” Chris explained. This only happens to 700 people on the planet per year and unfortunately, it impacted his entire body all the way to the top of his head. What he really had was a combination of Encephalitis, Myelitis, and Meningitis. So it’s an extremely rare case that’s been hard for us to watch and hard for him to go through.”

After hospital stays in Springfield and Kansas City, Hains is now at a rehab hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, dealing with plenty of complications.

“Outside of the many bouts of pneumonia, he also had a blockage in his intestines and had to have a foot of his small intestine removed,” Chris said. “Then he also had a pacemaker installed for his heart. That didn’t surprise me because he had so many weeks where his heart rate was all over the place. And that’s part of this whole thing. His body’s not moving, he’s in bed most of the day or sitting in a chair, so those things are likely to happen. We’re just grateful we haven’t had anything more serious happen.”

But there has been some good news too.

“He still has some paralysis throughout his entire body, but he can feel touches and sensations everywhere,” said Art’s daughter Kathleen Hains. “We are also making progress in terms of movement and mentally, he’s there. So we’re taking baby steps. He does voice therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy to work on his memory, and physical therapy to work mainly on his lower half.”

“He’s off the respirator during the day, but he does need it at night,” Chris added. “It really just comes down to his diaphragm not being strong enough to cough. And once you fall asleep, that increases the risk. But he’s got to get his diaphragm strong enough to make a productive cough.”

And one more positive sign is that the man known for his voice....can now speak again.

“I can hear the broadcaster’s voice come out now and then,” Kathleen Hains said with a smile. “I hadn’t heard that in a long time so that was exciting.”

“When he was talking, I was like, ‘Art, you’re back! Listen to your voice!’” said Hains’ daughter-in-law Jaclyn Hains. “So we’re talking, and of course, some of his first questions were, ‘What’s going on with the Bears? What time is the Chiefs game?’”

“I see a bit of improvement every time,” Chris Haines said. “It’s just a lot slower than we would like, and it’s too slow even from a hospital and insurance standpoint.”

And therein lies another hurdle as insurance is dictating that Art be moved in the next couple of weeks from the long-term acute care facility where he is now to a skilled nursing facility.

“Insurance wants to move him down a level of care because it’s taking a lot longer, and the cost is exorbitant,” Chris said. “So I see why, from a business standpoint, they want to move him down a level of care, but he’s in a pretty vulnerable state, and we’re not sure we’re ready for that as a family. But we may not have a choice. Unfortunately, to our knowledge, there isn’t anywhere in Springfield or even in the state of Missouri that has a skilled nursing facility that would accept a ventilator patient. So maybe this interview is my plea to the Springfield community that if there is such a place, we would love to know about it.”

As of now, Art’s future is still touch-and-go as family members continue to deal with an unimaginable, surreal tragedy caused by a mosquito bite.

“I have moments where I forget he’s not here in Springfield,” Kathleen said. “Then I remember this is my reality. I feel like I’ve been sleepwalking since September. I have a great support system but it does feel like a nightmare.”

“It’s really hard to see him like this, and you feel like it isn’t real and he’ll be back,” Jaclyn said. “But it’s been hard on the family and like being in a bad dream. His grandson Jack asked, ‘When is grandpa going to walk again?’ and I’m like, ‘Buddy, we have no answers.’”

“It just comes down to how much is that inflammation going to reduce in the spinal cord,” Chris said. “It’s already come from his head down to the middle of his back at this point, and we just hope it keeps going down. The worst-case scenario is that he doesn’t improve and always has to have the ventilator at night. The next likely scenario is that all he has is his upper body and very little in the legs. For some people, it took a year, and they pretty much got everything back. It’s not out of the question that he could fully recover, but I think we’re aware of the fact that there could be some long-term implications from it.”

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