Martial arts expert, Mitch Gooch, teaches people how to do Kung Fu and martial arts all from his wheelchair. The 36-year-old British man suffers from a rare illness that causes his whole body to feel like “blocks of ice” and has left him disabled.
“I can only describe it as being frozen. You know you can move but you are just unable to. It literally feels like parts of your body are blocks of ice," Gooch told the Daily Mail.
When Gooch was 24, he woke up one morning fully paralyzed and could not move for a week. The hospital staff previously diagnosed his condition as growing pains before it was revealed he suffered from a rare hereditary illness — Andersen-Tawil syndrome — a type of long QT syndrome.
Andersen-Tawil syndrome is a rare condition and a rare form of periodic paralysis that affects approximately 100 people worldwide. According to the Mayo Clinic, this syndrome can cause episodes of muscle weakness, changes in heart rhythm, and developmental abnormalities. Patients commonly develop physical abnormalities such as a small lower jaw, dental abnormalities, widely spaced eyes, short stature and a curvature of the spine.
There are two types of this rare syndrome. Gooch particularly suffers from type 2 Andersen-Tawil syndrome which accounts for 40 percent of cases but the cause of these cases remains unknown. The cause of type 1 Andersen-Tawil syndrome — accounting for approximately 60 percent of all cases — is attributed to mutations in the KCNJ2 genre which is forms a channel that is responsible for transporting potassium ions into muscle cells. The movement of these ions is essential for maintaining the normal function of muscles. KCNJ2 gene mutations disrupt the structure of the potassium ions and leads to periodic paralysis and irregular heart rhythm, says the Genetics Home Reference.
The martial arts expert experiences attacks that leave him paralyzed at least 10 times a year unable to talk, eat or drink. These attacks occur when the levels of potassium in his body are completely depleted which leave him hospital-bound as he is placed on a potassium drip to stabilize levels.
If his potassium levels get too high, he may have a heart attack and if they drop too low he may slip into a coma.
Gooch told the Daily Mail, “If I suffer an attack during my sleep, then I will be paralyzed from the waist down and will not be able to move myself until my potassium levels come back to normal.”
Despite also suffering from also dwarfism and the growth disorder Russell-Silver syndrome, Gooch does not let his health ailments deter him from pursuing his biggest passion: martial arts. The expert is qualified to instruct seven martial arts and with the help of his partner, Amanda Hickling, she demonstrates techniques Gooch is unable to perform because of his condition.
Gooch has set up a martial arts club in Scunthorpe in April last year and now plans to open a multi-martial arts club with Amanda in Hull, his hometown.
Although long QT syndrome patients should avoid strenuous exercise or contact sports, reduce loud, startling noises, and stay away from situations that can make them excited or angry, Gooch still manages to participate in martial arts. Medications, medical devices, surgery and lifestyle changes have helped Gooch maintain his condition stable but preventing his heart from beating out of control or risk sudden death.
“Kung Fu has given me back something I thought I’d lost, which is the will to sit tall and say, “I can do this”, when many people thought I couldn’t,” Gooch said.