Crew chief Kevin Manion fights the symptoms and stigma of gout

  Kevin Manion. (Getty Images)

Kevin Manion. (Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C.—There’s a reason why flip-flops are Kevin “Bono” Manion’s favorite shoes.

There’s a reason why the crew chief of Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet would cut holes in the toes of his work shoes before venturing into the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage.

Manion, 40, has suffered from gout for the past 10 years, and lately he’s also been fighting the mistaken perception that gout afflicts elderly persons who drink too much alcohol. At age 30, Manion began to suffer the symptoms of gout, a severe form of arthritis caused by high uric acid levels. At times, the pain was unbearable.

“I’ve broken some bones, I’ve stubbed my toe, I’ve cut myself wide open and had plenty of stitches,” Manion told the NASCAR Wire Service during an interview in the No. 1 team’s transporter on Friday.  “I’ve had my front teeth replaced, but (gout) is the most painful.

“You know when you’ve got it. There’s no question. Literally trying to sleep at night, you’re fine unless you have to put a cover on, because a bed sheet will make you scream like a baby. That’s how painful it is. There’s no thought of putting a sock on. I basically have cut the big toe out of my shoe so my toe wouldn’t touch anything at a track over a weekend.”

Manion may have known he had gout—despite one early misdiagnosis as turf toe—but he was reluctant to acknowledge it because of the stigma associated with a disease that afflicts eight million Americans.

“For two years, I was just stubborn more than anything, a guy that (said), ‘Surely it wasn’t gout—it couldn’t be,’ being my age of around 30,” Manion said. “I always heard (gout afflicts) old people that drink a lot of liquor, and I don’t do that. Occasionally, I’ll have a beer or two, but I’m not the guy that drank too much or ate too much red meat. I’m not that old guy…

“You always hear, and I’ve heard it before, ‘Oh, he’s got the gout—he’s a drunk.’ By no means did I ever think that was what it was. I just thought I had sprained my toe. I heard it was turf toe from one doctor. Finally, it hurt so bad—and I honestly thought it was broken, that’s how bad it hurt—and the doctor said, ‘No, if you broke your foot, it wouldn’t hurt that bad; what you have is gout.’”

At this point, Manion has done more than just accept the reality of the disease. He is working with Takeda Pharmaceuticals to heighten awareness of the disorder and to alter the conventional wisdom about its nature and causes.

“Simply, it’s just a severe form of arthritis,” Manion said. “If you say you have arthritis, people don’t look at you funny. When you say you have the gout, people kind of look at you funny. It’s the same thing. It’s just a form of arthritis.

“The only thing I can recommend is to go to your local physician and get on a plan to manage it.”

Manion also encourages gout sufferers, and those who think they might have it, to visit www.gout.com, a web site that provides comprehensive information about the condition.

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