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Drive thru dinner benefits Gutierrez
Chez Shari owner Frank Guinta plans a fundraiser with Dio and Maggie Gutierrez to help cover the cost of hyperbaric treatment Dio is undergoing for complex regional pain syndrome. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL
Dio Gutierrez spends most of his days in intense pain.

The local father of four and Manteca High alum, who played football for Chez Shari owner Frank Guinta with the Manteca Cowboys and under Mick Founts at Manteca High for four years, has spent the last 13 years battling complex regional pain syndrome – also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

The ailment is chronic and progressive and is characterized by intense pain, swelling and changes in the skin.

But after nine surgeries and advanced pain management that only dulls the sharp and often buckling pains, Gutierrez and his wife Maggie – who has been instrumental in searching for new treatments – think they may have found something that can change his life.

Thanks to the generosity of Manteca internist Dr. Melford Larson, Gutierrez is now undergoing treatment sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. It is a device which saturates the plasma in the blood with oxygen and spreads the enriched serum to all parts of the body. The $12,000 treatment cost has been cut down to $4,500 by Larson to help the family, and a fundraiser set for the end of the month is scheduled to help raise the funds needed to pay the medical bills for the sessions which aren’t covered by insurance.

“What I can’t believe is that I’m going to help that isn’t going to hurt,” Gutierrez said. “Everything I do always involves excruciating pain, and this is so much different.”

It was an injury at work that never healed properly, doctors believe, that lead to the onset of the degenerative disease, and Gutierrez lived with it for seven years before it was successfully diagnosed by a neurologist from South Africa who was visiting and recognized the symptoms almost immediately.

Having an official diagnosis was a step in the right direction for the one-time avid weightlifter, but with no known cure, the outlook was bleak.

Maggie Gutierrez knew that the main cause of death from the disease wasn’t from the disease itself but from suicide – the unrelenting pain making living too much for those afflicted.

Seeing her husband is in such intense agony, she said, was unbearable at times and prompted her to scour the Internet for any information she could find about treatment options. She watched every medical mystery special she could find on television, and never gave up hope that there was something out there that could help.

And then she found it.

During one of her investigative sessions watching a medical special one night, Gutierrez came across a story about a 12-year-old girl that was severely crippled by the disease and confined to a wheelchair. By the time she was 20, after undergoing hyperbaric treatments, she was in college and studying to be a doctor with the disease in remission.

“I saw that, and I thought ‘Maybe we have something here,’” she said. “That started me looking into this as a possibility, and we found other doctors that have the machine and then we found that Dr. Larson had two in his office right here in Manteca.

“At $200 a session and with 60 sessions being the magic number with this disease, it was going to be $12,000. Dr. Larson graciously cut that down to his cost which was $4,500 and agreed to start the treatments when he learned we were doing this fundraiser. Everybody who does this gets some relief, but 75 percent of the people have the disease go into remission for five years or more.”

The drive-thru dinner, which takes place on Thursday, April 28, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Chez Shari, is $10 and includes half of a rosemary chicken, rigatoni with meat sauce, salad, a roll and butter. Advance tickets are needed and can be obtained by contacting Maggie Gutierrez at 204-2282 or Frank Guinta at 518-3749.

An account has also been set up at Bank of Stockton – located at 660 N. Main Street – for donations to assist the family in paying for the treatment. Donations can be made to account number 3250015165 during the bank’s normal business hours.