Local man dies after suffering 'devastating' disease
THORNTON - In March of 2007, Nick Hoch broke his toe. The accident triggered a nightmare of a disease defined primarily by unrelenting pain.
Hoch, 37, had been working for Budweiser, loading and unloading beer throughout the Denver area.
While on the job, he dropped a keg on his foot. Doctors removed two bones from one of his toes and replaced them with pins.
Hoch, a Thornton resident and father of three, should have bounced back quickly. He didn't.
"It got progressively worse," his father, Tom, said.
Tom watched as the pain not only intensified, but moved beyond his foot and into his legs.
"You touched him, he was in brutal agony," he remembered.
Hoch had what's called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Doctors once referred to it as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).
This is the same disease Leslie Fishbein - the Denver furniture magnate who died earlier this year - had.
"It's devastating and it can become all-consuming for patients," said pain specialist Dr. Mike McCeney. "It basically takes over their lives."
McCeney, who works in northern Colorado, said CRPS is usually the result of a relatively minor injury like a broken bone.
He said the nervous system, for some reason, goes haywire causing "pain that's actually way out of proportion to the actual injury that has occurred."
The pain can be managed, but there's no cure for CRPS.
McCeney said not many know about the disease, including those in the medical community.
"There's some doctors out there that don't know about the entity and unfortunately (some patients) don't get treatment going soon enough, which can be a problem," he said.
Hoch struggled with the pain for nearly two years. This week, Hoch went into the hospital to undergo a procedure that could have tempered the pain.
Early Wednesday morning, just hours before the scheduled surgery, Tom Hoch got a call.
"That was it," he said. "I mean 37 years old and he's gone."
Hoch still doesn't know what exactly killed his son, but he does know he'll continue to get the word out about this horrible disease.
"You wouldn't wish this on your worst enemy," he said.