Ross Twp. Police Chief Darryl Haussler has cheated death twice and hopes to soon be back at his desk while he waits for a kidney transplant.
Haussler, 52, suffers from a rare, painful and incurable disease called scleroderma and still has to go for dialysis three times a week, but he returned to work for a few hours at the police station for the first time last Thursday. He has had 10 hospital stays over the past 14 months, lasting anywhere from a couple days to two months.
The chief spent December and January hospitalized, but with the support and prayers of his wife, family and “church family” he said he beat the odds.
“I wholeheartedly believe in prayer, and the power of prayer,” he said. “I truly believe that got me through the darkest parts of my illness. Especially back in December and January when there wasn’t much hope for me to make it. I had a few doctors tell us that in so many words.”
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Then on Aug. 19, he and his wife Debbie were in a horrific car crash on Interstate 75 when a woman rear-ended them going about 55 mph and shoved them under a semi.
He lost a couple teeth, his nose was broken and suffered some other injuries, his wife suffered a concussion, broken bones and bruises. He said everyone who has seen a picture of their crunched car said it was a miracle they survived. But none of this has gotten him down.
“I can respond to it one of two ways, I can go into a corner and curl up into a ball and just, ‘Woe is me, life is so miserable,’” Haussler said. “But I’ve got kids, I’ve got grandkids to motivate me and I want to live until I die. I don’t want to die before I’m dead. I want to be as positive as I can.”
The Mayo Clinic website says scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for the body.
In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, like Haussler, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin — such as blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract.
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His wife has been chronicling every step of their journey on her “Hope #healing for Darryl” page on Facebook, detailing every setback and triumphs. She told the Journal-News he is amazing.
“The way my husband has carried himself through this journey has been so inspirational to so many. Watching him rely fully on God no matter what the outcome may be has pushed me to a level in my faith that I’ve never been to before,” she said. “We are blessed beyond words and look forward to whatever God has planned for us in our future.”
Haussler has started the process for a kidney transplant and he said a couple people — they are anonymous at this juncture — have stepped up to be potential donors already. Depending on when a match can be made, he said it could take 18 months to two years.
Township Administrator Bob Bass said Haussler’s battle with this disease has been awe-inspiring.
“Because he is so personally humble, the chief’s possible return to work would mean more to the organization than he can imagine,” Bass said. “He is a tremendous inspiration to the township’s employees and the community that has rallied around him since the beginning of his illness. It is an amazing story.”
The chief said he hopes his story will give hope to other people with scleroderma or other autoimmune diseases.
“If I can be an inspiration for someone else who has this disease or another autoimmune disease, then I want to do that,” he said. “Because there’s always hope and I believe in miracles. The fact that I’m here right now I believe is a miracle.”
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