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St. Charles

Retired trooper faces medical challenges with optimism

ST. CHARLES – Although he is retired, Ron Reineke begins his days at 5:30 a.m. on his at-home treadmill or stationary bike for two to three hours, followed by an hourlong yoga regimen. 

He used to do it seven days a week, but now he gives himself Sunday off. 

Reineke, 55, is devoted to his workouts not for vanity, but medical necessity: After a pancreas transplant 10 years ago for diabetes, the anti-rejection drugs’ side effects caused his arm and leg muscles to atrophy, losing strength and definition. 

This summer, his doctor at the Mayo Clinic recommended that he lose about 5 pounds – go from 190 to 185 pounds – and start tightening up on his muscles. Reineke took to it like religion.

“If you saw me walking down the street, you would never think there was anything wrong,” Reineke said. “But I can’t go to a regular gym. I visited a couple of health clubs. … They weren’t bad, but they were not the best spot for me. I can’t have exposure to sickness or anything like that. It’s critical for me, with a compromised immune system.”

And because of the neuropathy or nerve damage from diabetes, he knew he also needed a personal trainer. In June, he found Jackie Kold Fitness and Yoga in Campton Hills, and his world changed.

“She really helped me and designed a program for me,” Reineke said. “Hers was not a huge place, but it was clean, and she knew how to deal with stuff. She could design a program for my neuropathy.”

By December, he no longer needed to see her every week. Instead, he can see her every month just for maintenance. He lost 20 pounds instead of 5. 

Reineke agreed to speak about his medical issues and his health regimen – not for recognition, but to give hope to others – especially when a new year begins and people make resolutions to exercise for better health.

“We want to inspire others and those with transplants not to give up,” Reineke said. “That means a lot to me.”

Kold put Reineke’s story on her online Wall of Fame also to inspire others.

“Ron is undaunted in his approach to the program I developed for him, and his work ethic is the best I have ever experienced,” Kold wrote.

“A guy like Ron could make excuses for himself many times over,” said Kold, 51. “I felt like I had to write a commentary on Ron.”

Kold said so many people spend their working lives hunched over computers or cellphones and do not take care of their bodies.

“This time of year, people get a New Year’s resolution – they know they’ve overeaten and do not work out,” Kold said. “Our quality of life is greatly determined by how we take care of our bodies.”

• • •

Reineke was born in New York, but his family moved to St. Charles. He was part of the first graduating class from St. Charles East in 1978. 

If Reineke had to deal only with his diabetes and the pancreas transplant, that would have been enough. He also has endured a blood infection that took almost a year to diagnose properly. He endured 55 surgeries, including the transplant, for two detached retinas twice on both eyes and cataracts, and 22 surgeries on his right hand. 

Reineke also endured multiple broken bones – at one point, he had two fractured feet from falling down, but he still cut his own grass, walking in casts. He refused to go on disability, choosing to work for 27½ years until he retired in June 2012.

“I went to work with broken feet, three infections, a hard cast and a portable IV for two weeks,” Reineke said. “Luckily, I worked in the court section and drove around courthouses, but I still patrolled. I still worked every day.”

A divorced father with sole custody of his son, Reineke said he wanted to set a good example.

“I wanted to show my son that life sometimes is rough, but you don’t give in, and you keep fighting.”

• • •

Reineke developed Type 1 diabetes at age 28 and had to take insulin shots. While working as a state trooper Nov. 1, 2001, Reineke answered a call – someone thought a baby had been thrown into a storm sewer along Interstate 55 and Cass Avenue in Lemont.

He did not stop to put gloves on, but went in right away with a dog and stuck his hands in the water, feeling around for a baby. There was no baby. The caller was mistaken.

Reineke received the equivalent of a paper cut on the ring finger of his right hand from a reed in the water. After a week, his hand swelled up. He began going to a series of local doctors – one of whom told him he had an infected hair follicle and to put an antibiotic ointment on it.

He went to a university hospital in Chicago twice, where his blood was cultured both times, to no avail. He eventually was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

“I went to the last doctor and said, ‘I’m not an idiot. I want a referral, and I want to go to Mayo Clinic.’ “

He said it was the best thing he could have done for himself.

“Mayo Clinic – it’s an amazing place,” Reineke said.

• • •

Reineke said he saw a rheumatologist at Mayo for more than two hours when the doctor told him he did not have rheumatoid arthritis.

“He said, ‘I’m sending you to infectious disease.’ I had no appointment – he just sent me to walk over there, and I sat down with the guy for another hour. He said, ‘I know exactly what you got,’ “ Reineke said.

The doctor called the university hospital in Chicago. 

“He said, ‘Hey, this is so-and-so from Mayo Clinic. After two cultures, when you could not figure out what it was, what temperature did you use – 36 degrees Celsius? Oh. It only grows at 34 degrees Celsius.’”

Reineke had mycobacterium marinum, a bacteria found in water. Rare, but not uncommon, he was advised it would take “a while” to kill it. It took four years, different antibiotics and 22 surgeries to remove the bacteria, which form cysts to protect itself from the antibiotics. 

It was also doctors at Mayo who suggested that he get on the transplant list for a new pancreas, because his diabetes was difficult to control, Reineke said. A donor pancreas became available from a 21-year-old man who had killed himself.

“It’s very difficult to thank somebody for that gift,” Reineke said. “For me to fail and not take care of myself and not try my best to stay alive and be as healthy as I can – it’s imperative that I continue to fight and do these things.”

• • •

Reineke does not dwell on his medical issues, but he looks to where he can make a difference for others. He volunteers at Lazarus House and has volunteered at Field of Dreams Horse Rescue, he said.

Dr. Yogish Kudva, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic, acknowledged Reineke’s positive attitude.

“He’s a very impressive person. He’s had a lot of things medically to deal with and continues to deal with,” Kudva said. “Such a resilient patient to react with makes our work easier and gives us a perspective. He’s very positive … and he’s always optimistic.”

Others in Reineke’s family also note his strength, positive attitude and generous spirit. 

“He is definitely someone to get strength from,” said Reineke’s son, Ronnie Reineke Jr., 25, of St. Charles. “Although he’s going through so much himself, he’s always thinking about how he can help someone else. Even when he first got hurt and got the transplant done – he was always trying to do something for somebody.”

Ron Reineke’s older sister, Jacquie Kelso, 57, also of St. Charles, said her brother’s challenges put things in perspective.

“The most definitive way to put it is: He is very inspired, and he inspires others,” Kelso said. 

“People who complain – I don’t think they have any clue or any inkling compared to my brother and what’s he been through,” Kelso added. “It’s sad he’s had to go through all these things, but the way he’s dealt with it is so positive. He just keeps looking forward to the next day.”

ST. CHARLES – Although he is retired, Ron Reineke begins his days at 5:30 a.m. on his at-home treadmill or stationary bike for two to three hours, followed by an hourlong yoga regimen. 

He used to do it seven days a week, but now he gives himself Sunday off. 

Reineke, 55, is devoted to his workouts not for vanity, but medical necessity: After a pancreas transplant 10 years ago for diabetes, the anti-rejection drugs’ side effects caused his arm and leg muscles to atrophy, losing strength and definition. 

This summer, his doctor at the Mayo Clinic recommended that he lose about 5 pounds – go from 190 to 185 pounds – and start tightening up on his muscles. Reineke took to it like religion.

“If you saw me walking down the street, you would never think there was anything wrong,” Reineke said. “But I can’t go to a regular gym. I visited a couple of health clubs. … They weren’t bad, but they were not the best spot for me. I can’t have exposure to sickness or anything like that. It’s critical for me, with a compromised immune system.”

And because of the neuropathy or nerve damage from diabetes, he knew he also needed a personal trainer. In June, he found Jackie Kold Fitness and Yoga in Campton Hills, and his world changed.

“She really helped me and designed a program for me,” Reineke said. “Hers was not a huge place, but it was clean, and she knew how to deal with stuff. She could design a program for my neuropathy.”

By December, he no longer needed to see her every week. Instead, he can see her every month just for maintenance. He lost 20 pounds instead of 5. 

Reineke agreed to speak about his medical issues and his health regimen – not for recognition, but to give hope to others – especially when a new year begins and people make resolutions to exercise for better health.

“We want to inspire others and those with transplants not to give up,” Reineke said. “That means a lot to me.”

Kold put Reineke’s story on her online Wall of Fame also to inspire others.

“Ron is undaunted in his approach to the program I developed for him, and his work ethic is the best I have ever experienced,” Kold wrote.

“A guy like Ron could make excuses for himself many times over,” said Kold, 51. “I felt like I had to write a commentary on Ron.”

Kold said so many people spend their working lives hunched over computers or cellphones and do not take care of their bodies.

“This time of year, people get a New Year’s resolution – they know they’ve overeaten and do not work out,” Kold said. “Our quality of life is greatly determined by how we take care of our bodies.”

• • •

Reineke was born in New York, but his family moved to St. Charles. He was part of the first graduating class from St. Charles East in 1978. 

If Reineke had to deal only with his diabetes and the pancreas transplant, that would have been enough. He also has endured a blood infection that took almost a year to diagnose properly. He endured 55 surgeries, including the transplant, for two detached retinas twice on both eyes and cataracts, and 22 surgeries on his right hand. 

Reineke also endured multiple broken bones – at one point, he had two fractured feet from falling down, but he still cut his own grass, walking in casts. He refused to go on disability, choosing to work for 27½ years until he retired in June 2012.

“I went to work with broken feet, three infections, a hard cast and a portable IV for two weeks,” Reineke said. “Luckily, I worked in the court section and drove around courthouses, but I still patrolled. I still worked every day.”

A divorced father with sole custody of his son, Reineke said he wanted to set a good example.

“I wanted to show my son that life sometimes is rough, but you don’t give in, and you keep fighting.”

• • •

Reineke developed Type 1 diabetes at age 28 and had to take insulin shots. While working as a state trooper Nov. 1, 2001, Reineke answered a call – someone thought a baby had been thrown into a storm sewer along Interstate 55 and Cass Avenue in Lemont.

He did not stop to put gloves on, but went in right away with a dog and stuck his hands in the water, feeling around for a baby. There was no baby. The caller was mistaken.

Reineke received the equivalent of a paper cut on the ring finger of his right hand from a reed in the water. After a week, his hand swelled up. He began going to a series of local doctors – one of whom told him he had an infected hair follicle and to put an antibiotic ointment on it.

He went to a university hospital in Chicago twice, where his blood was cultured both times, to no avail. He eventually was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

“I went to the last doctor and said, ‘I’m not an idiot. I want a referral, and I want to go to Mayo Clinic.’ “

He said it was the best thing he could have done for himself.

“Mayo Clinic – it’s an amazing place,” Reineke said.

• • •

Reineke said he saw a rheumatologist at Mayo for more than two hours when the doctor told him he did not have rheumatoid arthritis.

“He said, ‘I’m sending you to infectious disease.’ I had no appointment – he just sent me to walk over there, and I sat down with the guy for another hour. He said, ‘I know exactly what you got,’ “ Reineke said.

The doctor called the university hospital in Chicago. 

“He said, ‘Hey, this is so-and-so from Mayo Clinic. After two cultures, when you could not figure out what it was, what temperature did you use – 36 degrees Celsius? Oh. It only grows at 34 degrees Celsius.’”

Reineke had mycobacterium marinum, a bacteria found in water. Rare, but not uncommon, he was advised it would take “a while” to kill it. It took four years, different antibiotics and 22 surgeries to remove the bacteria, which form cysts to protect itself from the antibiotics. 

It was also doctors at Mayo who suggested that he get on the transplant list for a new pancreas, because his diabetes was difficult to control, Reineke said. A donor pancreas became available from a 21-year-old man who had killed himself.

“It’s very difficult to thank somebody for that gift,” Reineke said. “For me to fail and not take care of myself and not try my best to stay alive and be as healthy as I can – it’s imperative that I continue to fight and do these things.”

• • •

Reineke does not dwell on his medical issues, but he looks to where he can make a difference for others. He volunteers at Lazarus House and has volunteered at Field of Dreams Horse Rescue, he said.

Dr. Yogish Kudva, an endocrinologist at Mayo Clinic, acknowledged Reineke’s positive attitude.

“He’s a very impressive person. He’s had a lot of things medically to deal with and continues to deal with,” Kudva said. “Such a resilient patient to react with makes our work easier and gives us a perspective. He’s very positive … and he’s always optimistic.”

Others in Reineke’s family also note his strength, positive attitude and generous spirit. 

“He is definitely someone to get strength from,” said Reineke’s son, Ronnie Reineke Jr., 25, of St. Charles. “Although he’s going through so much himself, he’s always thinking about how he can help someone else. Even when he first got hurt and got the transplant done – he was always trying to do something for somebody.”

Ron Reineke’s older sister, Jacquie Kelso, 57, also of St. Charles, said her brother’s challenges put things in perspective.

“The most definitive way to put it is: He is very inspired, and he inspires others,” Kelso said. 

“People who complain – I don’t think they have any clue or any inkling compared to my brother and what’s he been through,” Kelso added. “It’s sad he’s had to go through all these things, but the way he’s dealt with it is so positive. He just keeps looking forward to the next day.”

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