Debbie Fair loves dogs. She owns three of her own, but every once in a while, bad memories of a fateful day three years ago this month overtake her emotions, and for good reason.
In April of 2004 her Jack Russell terrier, Chewy, was attacked by a full-grown blond Labrador, and she found herself caught in the middle.
“He was on a short leash. I grabbed my dog and got caught up with this dogfight. I fell backwards and heard a loud pop. My calf muscles had ripped off my bones,” said Fair, who was 44 at the time and living in Vacaville.
Doctors refused to believe her injury was serious enough to require X-rays.
By the time she pursued a second opinion, she had contracted a neurological disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Caused by unhealed broken bones, RSD is now part of Fair’s everyday life. Her physical abilities are limited, and she’s on a regimen of 15 pills a day to control pain and seizures.
“I always tell people that if you don’t use a leash for your dog, you could change someone’s life forever,” said Fair.
Since moving to Discovery Bay last year with her husband Rex and three dogs – Chewy, Peanut and Butter – memories of her active life working in sales and marketing for Gold’s Gym in Vacaville are a blur.
“I can’t work full-time for anybody now,” said Fair, adding that what helps her heal is working from home and enjoying the scenery in her back yard. She also sells Isagenix, a body-cleansing and weight-loss product she marketed at Gold’s Gym before she contracted RSD.
According to Fair, RSD is considered a neurological disorder so severe that Social Security recognizes it as a disability. “I have a disease that physicians say there’s no cure,” said Fair. “But I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it or I won’t have hope. With this product, I’m getting better and better and my quality of living is a great start.”
When it comes to doctors and their diagnosis, Fair encourages everyone to trust their bodies. “I know my body. I was always a health nut,” she said. “I told my doctors to please listen to me.”
Fair is currently working on an RSD educational awareness bill vetoed last October by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She’s hoping the bill will pass the next time around.
“This has affected my whole family,” said Fair, mother of three grown children and grandmother to a 4-month-old baby. “It’s been very hard. My daughter was upset about me taking medications, and I have memory loss, too.”
Pausing to regain her composure, Fair said that her family’s frustration with her memory loss at times adds to her physical pains.
“The medication affects your memory and moods,” she said. “I lost my job, income. My husband had to take on all of my duties. I used to be a super-mom.”
If she could wave a magic wand, all dogs would be on leashes, especially in Discovery Bay. Although she receives compensation from the owners of the dog who attacked her, it doesn’t reverse the consequences of the incident.
“I want people to know that they are responsible for the actions of their dogs,” she said. “They could be changing someone’s life forever.”
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