In the early 2000s, like so many up and coming children of the prairie, Ellinwood native J. Basil Dannebohm, had the bright lights of the city shining in his eyes.
Intelligent, humble, educated, and energetic, those dreams of the big time seemed to be coming true.
He worked for the Lawrence Journal World before moving to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, on to Boulder, and then on to California.
“I never thought I’d come back,” Basil said.
However, the now 31-year-old began having mysterious illness symptoms about four years ago. After years of spinal taps, nerve conduction tests, CTs, MRIs and drop table tests, a doctor finally looked at the bottom of his shoes.
And the story written in the Book of Life for Jeremy Basil Dannebohm took a dramatic turn.
Basil was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease at the same age as Michael J. Fox. There is no cure.
The young man counts it as a blessing that those who have young-onset Parkinson’s don’t have dementia. “To live out my life with certain symptoms associated with Parkinson’s is not something I wanted, but losing my mind would have been devastating,” he said.
Basil is grateful that he is not confined to a wheelchair and that he can partake in his love of fine wine. He is also grateful that he inherited a whole host of supportive “moms” that have come into his life.
As a youth, Basil considered becoming a priest, attended Catholic schools and moved to Hays to attend Thomas More Prep High School, which is a Catholic high school. He eventually chose to become a layperson, although he is still a person of profound faith.
Illness has not touched his spirituality, and Basil is grateful for the experiences he has already had. “My life has been so ridiculously blessed,” he said. “I try to uplift people.”
The decision to move back to the Great Plains came after experiencing a serious wreck in California in 2012, Basil decided it was time to return to the home of his heart — a place where there are wide open skies, dramatic rain and thunder storms, and on the back roads, drivers who take the time to wave.
“I decided to come back and give back,” said Dannebohm. He is currently living in Meade and writing a book.
So, doing the best he can with his life, Basil focuses on exercise, taking care of himself, writing his book, and taking on limited number of speaking engagements. He has lost 45 pounds since December, and rests more than he once did.
The book he is writing will be about the prairies of Kansas, and how wonderful they are. “Now I am discovering amazing things I never knew about,” Basil said. “I’m becoming a Kansas explorer and have learned to appreciate rural.”
Dannebohm likes this quote by Marcus Aurelius. “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
“I get time to appreciate smaller things in life,” said Basil. “Some of these places are gems on the prairie. Life has slowed me down, and now I see these things.
“I really love this state now.”