Duke’s Adventures Part 5 – Wrestling With Illness

Written by: ‘Duke’ Kieran Burns, retired 20 year Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer.

Getting Sick…

In the next couple of years after my 2012 USA Wrestling adventure, I’d continue working for my AWF in Australia, working SupaNova live events as well as returning to Perth to work for Mana at NHPW. In many ways, things were going really well in my wrestling life but several things happened that started to go wrong.

I had returned to the USA in 2013 to work shows primarily with Wild Samoan training centre students. I could work with new trainees on confidence and promo skills and witness their progression. I would also spend my birthday there which Samu and his family had taken so much effort to make sure I enjoyed. I was spending more time with Samu’s son Lance, who was just getting better each and every time I saw him. I also got to know Samu’s brother Afa Jr. and Lloyd better too. Afa Jr. is a fun loving guy and Lloyd is just a sweetheart of a guy who loves his family and both are very proud of their Wrestling accomplishments.

I still learnt a lot on this trip. Unfortunately, I was making mistakes at home in my personal and professional life. In 2014, due to some stupid decisions, I was ruining my relationship with NHPW. I won’t go into details but choices I made and things I’d said had ruined my chances of returning. Although I was still friends with Mana and NHPW after these mistakes, I had spoilt my chances of continuing my time there. Over time, things would get better but as far as announcing there, my time was up. I would forever regret my choices but thankfully things have been forgiven and I’ll always be thankful for my time there and opportunities given to me.

I indeed had some growing up to do and getting my priorities straight. Later in 2014, after years of living a Rock ‘n’ Roll type lifestyle, I was burning the candle at both ends and using drugs and alcohol to do what I thought was just normal. Unfortunately after a bad bout of Gastroenteritis, I realised I needed help with my vices and put myself into rehab. This was sobering on many levels as I had to not only get straight physically and mentally but also to start to correct some of the choices I had selfishly made. After getting myself right and a few months away from shows, I finally went back to ring announcing duties at AWF. If I had that to look forward to, I could get on the straight and narrow. I need to, it was all I had…

In 2015, I was back to feeling like myself but I was feeling a bit stale. I needed a boost of another USA trip so I contacted Samu about returning. He was all for it and I was pumped to the point that inspiration was coming back. Then it happened, the course of both my personal and professional life would change for good. In the weeks leading up to going back to the USA, I started to get these vice like headaches that wouldn’t go away for days at a time. I was getting weaker in my strength, I was losing focus and I was bed bound for days on end. Finally after a particular bad day and increasingly worse headaches, in a weakened state I asked my partner at the time, Helen, to get me to the hospital. They took me straight in and after initial tests, they said I was showing Meningitis like symptoms. Very quickly I lost all power in my arms and legs so they took me onto the Neurological ward. They would send me for blood tests, MRI and CT scans as well as nerve conduction tests to try and find out what was wrong as the initial Meningitis assumption was thrown out the window.

I was eventually diagnosed with a rare Autoimmune disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome. Essentially , my immune system was eating away at my nervous system. If we hadn’t caught it when we did, it would eventually affect the muscles around my lungs and I’d be put into an induced coma and on life support. After a lengthy stay in hospital, a myriad of further tests and a complete IVIG treatment, I was beginning to show signs of improvement. I was allowed to go home as an outpatient as I lived close to the hospital and I could continue further treatment and my recovery.

Duke at Prince of Wales Hospital Randwick Sydney, NSW

My life had changed and I knew it. Things would be forever different. I had lost so much that in my life I had very little. But I did have the support of family , friends and people who cared. I knew progression to any sort of normalcy would be slow but I was determined not to let it stop me from what I loved doing. I was determined to get back to Pro Wrestling and to get back to the USA. It was just a matter of time . It was all I had. Somehow, some way, I’d get there. Even if it killed me.

Through determination, literally blood sweat and tears, soul searching and help from those who loved me, I was going to come back. I decided my trip to the USA was back on and I convinced myself I could do this. I was going to prove the doctors, hell even the medical establishment wrong and that I could do this. With banging my head against a brick wall getting new insurance and rescheduling a flight, I was going back to the USA. I had to undertake physical rehab in preparation and Samu said he’d make sure I was looked after but I just had to take it easy on myself. He lived next to a world class rehab hospital so if I got into any health problems, help was near. Somehow I made it through working my scheduled dates there.

There were a few times I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the events and a few times I got weak and dizzy but with help from Samu, his family and the WXWc4 crew, I got through. I even had the honour and privilege of preparing the new WXWc4 ring announcer for his duties. Although he had prior experience, Samu thought that my experience and knowledge could be passed on to get him ready and I’m proud to say, Alex did a wonderful job. As the trip came to an end, I’d realised I’m done. I’d gotten through the trials and tribulations to get back to what I’d loved doing so much. Over the course of the next few years I’d not only return to the USA but I’d continue on ring announcing back home in Australia with the help of my AWF friends, my SupaNova Comicon family and varied friends and wrestlers around Australia.

But time was running out. I knew it, my body knew and others were beginning to know it too. The sick truth would soon prevent itself.

Can I continue on like this ? It wasn’t looking likely …

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