Journalist and social activist Shaun King said in a new social media post that he’s been diagnosed with a painful nerve condition that’s left him unable to do some of the most basic actions without experiencing “excruciating” agony. Because he said his insurance won’t cover the recommended treatment, the 43-year-old reached out to his more than 3 million followers on social media in an appeal to help him pay for the medical procedures.
King said in an Instagram post that he is suffering from a condition called occipital neuralgia, which he called “the worst pain I’ve experienced in my adult life.” He said it was the result of a lingering spinal injury he said he sustained more than two decades ago.
“At times it hurts to move my head in any direction,” he wrote in the post on Tuesday that showed him smiling and holding up a peace sign with his fingers. “It can hurt to talk, chew, even blink my eyes. It can now hurt to touch my hair or even touch parts of my face. It’s awful.”
King also said his doctors have identified some “promising procedures” to address his condition. However, those procedures would not be covered by his health insurance, he added.
“I just can’t afford to do them on my own, but I damn sure refuse to stay like this,” King said before asking for donations “to help my family cover the costs of this next round of procedures and the expenses of me being off of work and unable to help much at all otherwise.”
In a previous Instagram post from last week, King showed s similar photo of himself in the hospital and said he was there “having yet another procedure on my cervical spine.”
In that post, he asked for his followers’ “prayers.”
In both hospital posts, supporters filled his comments with well wishes.
Civil rights attorney and King’s longtime friend Lee Merritt tweeted on Wednesday that King was “suffering.” Merritt also said in the tweet that he “knew what people would say” when they saw King’s Instagram post. He asked his tens of thousands of followers to “help” King by donating online.
King has for years been dogged by unfounded allegations of scamming in an effort to line his pockets via online donations.
King attributed his condition to what he called “a lifetime of spinal injuries.”
King said he was beaten by a “racist mob of rednecks” so badly that he missed almost two years of school while recovering from fractures to his face and ribs as well as severe injuries to his spine. A Forbes magazine profile called it “one of the first registered hate crimes” in Kentucky history.
“In March of 1995, it all boiled over and a racist mob of nearly a dozen students beat me severely, first punching me from all sides, then, when I cradled into a fetal position on the ground they stomped me mercilessly, some with steel-toed boots, for about 20 seconds,” wrote King.
“I had fractures in my face and ribs, but most badly damaged was my spine. I ended up having three spinal surgeries and missed 20 months of school over it. My entire family endured this deeply painful time in my life ranging from the surgeries, the brutal recovery, physical therapy, and professional counseling. It was rougher than my words will ever do justice.”
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons defines occipital neuralgia as “a condition in which the occipital nerves, the nerves that run through the scalp, are injured or inflamed. This causes headaches that feel like severe piercing, throbbing or shock-like pain in the upper neck, back of the head or behind the ears.”
Occipital neuralgia can be caused by “pinched nerves or muscle tightness in the neck,” according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. “It can also be caused by a head or neck injury.”
There is no cure for the condition but it can be treated with surgical and non-surgical procedures. It is unclear which procedures King said his doctors recommended.
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