February of last year marked Matthew Roach's official retirement date from the Dodge City Police Department. Roach has been in law enforcement since 1994, serving the community of Dodge City from 2004 to 2012, when Roach was forced to retire from his position as a Detective and Sniper for The Special Operations Response (S.O.R.T) Team.
"When I left to undergo another surgery, I still had open cases I was working on," Matthew said. "I told everyone I would return in one to two weeks....I've never been back since." Matthew's last day at work was October 24, 2011. The severity of his condition physically enabled him to return to work and Matthew now knows it has enabled him to return to any sense of normalcy.
Matthew was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP). According to the HSP foundation, HSP is classified as being a neurological impairment that is limited to the lower body. However, it is estimated that approximately 30 different types of HSP exist and symptoms vary from case to case.
"In simplest form, HSP attacks the upper motor neurons which control voluntary movements of your body." Matthew said.
While the severity of symptoms may range with each case, Unfortunately, Matthew has already begun to experience the hallmark symptoms of HSP, including symptoms that have begun to affect his vision, his bladder, his left arm and his lower body. Matthew currently has difficulty walking and balancing due to increasingly weak and stiff muscles. Because of his progressive symptoms he now relies on the help of his cane and power chair to get him around.
While Matthew suffered medical issues prior to his diagnosis, he never imagined today he'd be in the condition he is now. Matthew explained that it was a process that led him to finally being diagnosed. Everything began in 2010, when, during training for S.O.R.T he 'blew his knew' and according to Matthew, his knee never healed right.
"I would trip all the time," he said. "I had trouble standing up and would stumble over things."
In 2011, he started having pains in his hip, leg, and abdomen but Matthew said he attributed things he was feeling to an accident he had when he was 19, when he was stepped on by a bull. But when symptoms he was feeling were growing increasingly worse, Matthew was sent to see a urologist in Garden City.
It was then decided Matthew would undergo a surgery to operate on his left hip area. In October of 2011, while being operated, doctors found Matthew had dead cells and a hernia.
"The pain was worse after the surgery then before the surgery," Matthew said. The following month, Matthew underwent another surgery where doctors would seek two main nerves and cut sections of them out in efforts to eliminate the pain Matthew was feeling. Matthew said the surgery didn't work.
"I went to the head of the department of surgery in Garden City," Matthew said. "He told me I had definite nerve damage but no one in their facility had expertise in that particular area."
Matthew was sent to Wichita where after countless tests, exams, and blood work it was discovered he had peripheral neuropathy that was affecting his legs, consequently, causing pain that could only be manageable through an peripheral nerve stimulator. The stimulator was implanted on his left hip.
Matthew said that during this time he continued to get worse and was sent to see a neurosurgeon, a step that led to his official diagnosis. As Matthew sat in his love seat with his feet reclined up and his cane resting on the armrest, wearing eye glasses he now needs as his visioned has also weakend, he said the acceptance of his new live has been and still is very difficult. His wife, Kristina said up until the disorder's aggressive symptoms appeared, Matthew has been a very active guy to say the least and it has been extremely difficult for her to see him in a weak state.
For Matthew, the 25 to 26 pills he has to take daily or the fact that he now relies on the assistance of cane and a power chair are not the most difficult task in his new life, but for the man that once encompassed physical strength in his day to day life, the most difficult things to accept have been not having the physical strength for his four children.
"I don't know if I'll be able to walk my daughter, my only girl, down the aisle," Matthew said. "That might not sound like a big deal to most but it is to me."
Matthew said he has gone from being a father that would show his kids how to do stuff, like how to do yard work, to having to explain to them how to do things. "He has his good days and he has his bad days," Kristina said.
With all the hurdles they've already over came and continue to over come, the Roach's maintain close as a family and because Matthew's disorder has no cure and symptoms appear gradually, they power through each day as a family one step at a time. In essence, HSP is the a painful waiting game. The Roach family are given no hope of having the active Matthew back and only have control over treating symptoms as they appear, but how many symptoms will take effect or and how aggresive they will be, is something they have no answer to, they simply have to wait and see. At it's worst, individuals who suffer from HSP can end up bed-ridden.
As a way to help Matthew and his family with medical expenses, Matthew's former colleagues and friends have organized a yard sale scheduled to take place Saturday, August 17th at 7 a.m. The yard sale will be located at 1803 6th Ave. Following the yard sale, a benefit will take place at Central Station Bar & Grill, August 23rd; the benefit will be a $5 cover charge and will include a bake sale and entertainment by Jeff "Vinnie" Mooradian, lead singer for local band, Ask Vinnie! and former co-worker of Matthew's. Performance is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Proceeds from the yard sale and majority of proceeds from the benefit including free-will donations will go towards helping the Roach family with medical expenses.
"I can speak on behalf of everyone that worked with him when I say he was excellent at his job," Jeff said. "He was always helpful, always dependable and he helped a lot of victims in Dodge City. He was not only a great officer but he's a great friend to many people."
Matthew shared the same sentiment with the Globe in his Monday interview saying his former colleagues at the Dodge City Police Department are his 'family'. "We encourage the community to show up and support the family," Jeff said. "Let's show support and appreciation for Matthew and for all he did to serve the community of Dodge City."