Black Hills resident hit hard by too much iron

By Jeff Smith

Enick Shanklin with his aunt Traci Mockli at his basket benefit fundraiser on Feb. 11 at the Rapid City Howard Johnson Inn and Suites. Along with his friends, some of his family was able to come out to the fundraiser.

Enick Shanklin, 39, lost everything over his genetic condition hemochromatosis.

He said before the problem started, he was working a lot of hours in a nice house and taking care of his family. What he has gone through has been a real life-changer.

Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition where the body absorbs excessive amounts of iron in the blood. He has had the medical condition since he was born but has only known about it for less than a year. Some people might not even know they have hemochromatosis because it is not as aggressive as what Shanklin has.

“There are some genetic tests that will tell you if you have it,” Shanklin said.

Some signs might be soreness, fatigue and digestive disturbance.

Currently, he has to have blood drawn weekly.

For awhile his blood doesn’t have iron in it. But his body keeps 100 percent of the iron that enters him.

He first became extremely sick. Shanklin stayed like that for awhile, going to a couple of hospitals to get a diagnosis.

“I had bed sores and couldn’t get up. Basically, I was pretty positive I wasn’t going to wake up one morning,” Shanklin said.

In three months he lost 60 lbs. He even began preparing his will.

A the first hospital he went to doctors saw problems with his organs but weren’t sure what the problem was.

His second hospital was at the University of New Mexico and they were able figure out what he had. It took them a couple of months, though.

Unfortunately, by the time there was a diagnosis there was already significant damage to his organs.

Severe onset diabetes occurred due to his pancreas shutting down. He also has stage four liver cirrhosis.

“Pretty much every organ in my body is attacked with iron. As they shut down I have to replace them,” Shanklin said. “The liver usually goes first and then the other ones.”

Someone with his condition usually passes because of an organ transplant. He is also a high risk candidate for strokes and heart attacks.  Sometime within the next 5-10 years he will most likely need to have a liver transplant.

He moved to Albuquerque after working at restaurants in the Black Hills and a gaming resort in Deadwood. Shanklin was only in Albuquerque for six months before becoming extremely ill.

He received medical care through the insurance he had with his last job. Now, without insurance he is not able to get medical check-ups. Gap insurance is needed to cover him until Social Security benefits are in place. He is trying for disability now, but it is taking too long and the bills are piling up. 

He also has two sons, 15 and 17, that still need taken care of too.

On Feb. 11, a basket benefit fundraiser was held for Shanklin. Around 70 people attended.

“It went really well. We had a lot of people turn out for it. It went better than I expected,” Shanklin said.

On top of that, about 100 area businesses donated funds or other items to help Shanklin.

The fundraiser was done against his will, too, but in the end he was so thankful for what happened.

“My friends came out of the woodwork. People I haven’t seen since grade school,” Shanklin said.

“I was amazed at the amount of support from my friends.”

Nicole and Andy Tricker set up the fundraiser. Shanklin said they deserve all the credit for how well everything went.

He said just about every business that was contacted in Hill City for the fundraiser donated funds or something.

“Hill City really did come together for me and I am so thankful,” Shanklin said.

Shanklin graduated from Hill City High School and went to Black Hills State University for a year and a half.

Most of his life has been spent in the Black Hills. He has either lived or worked in Deadwood, Hill City, Lead or Rapid City.

He thinks he might be able to work again if there are no serious complications.

There is no real medication or treatment for his condition. He takes insulin for the diabetes but the only treatment that is available in the U.S. is to give blood to lower the iron levels.

“It’s not a matter of trying to stop it. It’s a matter of trying to slow it down,” Shanklin said.

People can also donate to him on his gofundme page “Enick Shanklin’s IRON IT OUT fund”.

His friends created it for him after they discovered what he was going through.

“I tried to fight that. I was a pretty proud person,” Shanklin said. “I worked hard all my life and never had to ask anybody for anything.”

He said one of his organs could fail at any minute and he could end up in the hospital. Shanklin would like to get back to any type of normalcy that he can.

For now, he plans to continue with the regular phlebotomy appointments and control his diabetes.