A Victoria man who has been sick since March remains undiagnosed, as doctors across Texas struggle to figure out what is impairing his ability to breathe.

“Remains seriously ill. No definitive diagnosis at this point,” Mike Mays reads from his phone screen, which shows his online patient portal that includes his doctor’s notes from a Tuesday appointment.

Mays first began having trouble breathing in March. Thinking it was a sinus infection, the 51-year-old went to the doctor for some antibiotics and continued with his day-to-day life.

But his day-to-day life got harder. Mays found it difficult to walk from his couch, where he’d put on his shoes, to the car parked in his driveway. He was so short of breath that he would rarely leave his desk when he went into the office. He felt lethargic and began slurring his words, he said. Eventually, his colleagues urged him to see a doctor.

In April, when Mays went to see his family doctor to figure out why it was so difficult for him to breath, his physician immediately admitted him to Citizens Medical Center. Mays spent more than 20 days in the hospital, where doctors worked to cure him of two viruses he had contracted while also running a range of tests to figure out what else might be wrong.

When Mays was released from the hospital, he found himself short of breath within days, and returned to his doctors in Victoria.

“They were mystified on why I wasn’t getting better,” Mays said.

Since then, Mays has been subject to even more tests. He’s seen two pulmonologists in San Antonio for a second opinion, and his physicians have consulted with other experts to try to get an answer. But there’s still no diagnosis.

Mays and his wife Rhonda Mays were hopeful that he’d be eligible to get on the waiting list for a new lung, but without a diagnosis, his name can’t go on the list.

Next month, Mays will get a third opinion from a cardiologist in Houston.

“It’s very frustrating,” Mays said. “I just want an answer.”

While Mays and his family wait for answers, his whole life has changed. His difficult breathing makes it tough for him to leave his house regularly. He lost his job as a finance manager at a local car dealership after he left work on short-term disability.

He has to spend most of his days at home, connected to an oxygen concentrator that pumps oxygen to his body to keep it functioning. His doctors have discouraged him from spending time outside or other places where he could get infected, so he usually only leaves the house for doctor’s appointments, when he and his wife will switch his oxygen connection from the concentrator to oxygen tanks.

But Mays needs so much oxygen that the couple needs to take at least six tanks with them for a simple day trip. Anything longer than that would be difficult for Mays given how much oxygen he needs. Mays’ lengthy hospital stay and the long litany of medical tests has left the family with steep medical bills, and, without a diagnosis, there’s no end in sight.

Mays and his family are desperate for answers. They’re hopeful that medical experts throughout the country might think of an obscure test to run or an unusual diagnosis to consider that might help Mays’ physicians settle on a definitive diagnosis, and, from there, determine a path for treatment.

“At this point in the game, even if they do find out what’s wrong with me, it’s not going to be pretty,” Mays said.

Ciara McCarthy covers local health issues for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can contact her by emailing cmccarthy@vicad.com.

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