Rowdy Gaines Is in Hospital in Hawaii With Rare Disease


Rowdy Gaines, one of the swimming stars of the 1984 Olympics who last month set a master’s world record in the 100-meter freestyle, has been struck with a rare disease of the nervous system and is in guarded condition in a Honolulu hospital.

Gaines, 32, is undergoing treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological paralytic disorder of unknown cause, his mother Jettie said Wednesday night from Hawaii. The disease is characterized by sensory disturbances in the extremities, and slight to severe locomotor impairment.

Gaines, a University of Auburn swimmer who won three gold medals at the Los Angeles Games, is in the intensive care unit at the Queens Medical Center where he is undergoing blood treatment to accelerate the recovery process and physical therapy.


Jettie Gaines said doctors told her that victims have a 99% chance of full recovery from the viral disease.

Gaines, who manages the Oahu Swim Club, complained of becoming weak about a week after swimming in a charity event in New York. He said he experienced tingling in his hands and feet last Wednesday after swimming 3,000 yards. By Friday, he could not walk.

Gaines, who is married and has children, ages 6 and 1 1/2, cannot stand without help.

Gaines, who moved to Honolulu from Las Vegas last year, is undergoing a blood treatment known as plasmapheresis to help him recover, his mother said. The procedure, known as plasma exchange, removes or reduces concentrations of unwanted substances in the blood.

Jettie Gaines said doctors told her that there is no cure for the disease, which can take up to a year to “run its course.”

“He is rallying and improving,” his mother said. “That plasma treatment really wipes him out, but he said he feels a lot better.”

In 1984, Gaines won the 100-meter freestyle and was a member of the gold-medal winning 400-meter freestyle relay and 400 medley relay teams.