Rob Kirk was battling an upper respiratory cold or something in the spring of 2014.
The Edgerton man had allergies in the past, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to battle the flu, chest gunk. His family assumed Kirk had some common cold.
Then, Kirk had what doctors thought was a heart attack in October last year.
“Of course, it was in November after that heart attack that they diagnosed it as Sarcoidosis,” Glenda Kirk, Rob’s wife, said.
Sarcoidosis is an auto immune disease that causes inflammatory cells to grow in different parts of the body, most often it affects the lungs, lymph nodes, eyes and skin.
Rob has Sarcoidosis in his lungs and in his heart. Doctors diagnosed Rob with the disease after doing heart scans last fall.
“It’s progressed,” Glenda said. “Of course, we can only assume that when he got sick last year, he probably showed symptoms of the pulmonary sarcoidosis.”
According to the Mayo Clinic website, researchers do not know the exact cause of sarcoidosis. Doctors theorize that some people may have a genetic presdisposition to the disease, but there may be environmental factors such as exposure to certain bacteria, viruses, dust or chemicals.
Dennis Meyers, Johnson County Fire District No. 1 assistant chief, has worked with Rob for several years.
“He’s got a very serious disease, and it’s getting progressively worse,” Meyers said.
Since 2012, Rob has served as the Fire Chief for Johnson County Fire District No. 1, but he’s lived in the area his entire life.
A 1983 graduate of Gardner Edgerton High School, Rob got his public service start volunteering as a reserve police officer and fire fighter for the city of Gardner. He worked fulltime as a machinist while continuing to volunteer or work part time for the Gardner Public Safety Department. He started his own lawn and landscaping business, which he ran until he began working fulltime for Gardner Public Safety.
He’s still working, but in mid-October, he and members of his family including his parents Nancy and Fred Kirk and wife Glenda, will travel to the Mayo Clinic for cardiac ablation surgery.
Rob’s doctor referred him to the Mayo Clinic, because his form of Sarcoidosis, in which both heart and lungs are involved, is rare. Less than 2 percent of those diagnosed with sarcoidosis have the disease in both places.
Glenda said the family expects to stay near the Mayo Clinic for about a week.
“But that could change when we get there,” she said.
When a patient has an appointment at the Mayo Clinic, the clinic sends the patient an itinerary of what to expect. The Kirks met with doctors at the clinic back in February and received a very specific itinerary.
When the Kirks went to the clinic last February, they planned to be there for a few days.
“We ended up being there a week,” Glenda said.
They do not yet have an itinerary for the surgery, but they do know the surgery is scheduled for Oct. 21.
“Before they do the surgery, they’ll need to do some more tests and then they’ll do the surgery,” Glenda said.
Rob will likely be in the hospital for a few days, and then he will have a follow-up appointment.
“And then we’re assuming that we’re going to be able to come home,” Glenda said.
Between now and the surgery, Glenda said Rob is continuing to work for the fire district.
“We’re trying to live life as normal as possible for as long as we can,” she said.
Rob is still working around the house and spending time with his grown children, Dalton Kirk and Nicole Lantz. But, Glenda said, the disease has reduced the length of time Rob is able to do some of those things. He tires more easily now.
Meyers said a fundraiser next weekend will assist the family with expenses not covered by insurance.
“Rob’s given his life to the residents of Gardner and Edgerton, and it’s just time that we’re going to have to step up and help him right now,” Meyers said.
The fundraiser is set for 1 p.m. at Stricker’s Auction in Gardner. During the event, a variety of items will be auctioned including Chiefs and Royals tickets, weekends in Colorado and duck hunts.
The fundraising event wasn’t something the Kirks requested.
“We’ve got some amazing friends,” Glenda said. “There were a couple of people that came to Rob and asked if they could do that for him, and it was an avalanche that turned into something bigger than I could imagine. We are very blessed. That’s for sure.”