by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Human skin is composed mainly of collagen. This protein provides the strength our tissue and organs need, but too much of it can cause problems in the human body, and that is one of the main reasons Circuit Court Judge Peter Fryefield was admitted to Mayo Clinic recently.
The Civil Court judge has scleroderma, which is an autoimmune disease, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. This type of disorder confuses the body so its ability to differentiate between foreign invaders like viruses and itself is compromised.
One thing that has not been compromised is Fryefield’s spirit. The fan of bluegrass music has been playing his guitar during his stay at Mayo and is optimistic about his possible return home this week.
“I had one foot in the grave a week ago,” said Fryefield, “but now I might be out of here before the weekend.”
Fryefield has been on oxygen for the past month, and though his spirits may be improving, he will still need a lung transplant. In scleroderma the balance of collagen formation and collagen breakdown is altered so that too much collagen builds up, according to the Scleroderma Foundation. In the systemic sclerosis type of scleroderma, excess collagen causes fibrosis in the heart, lungs and the muscles that line the GI tract. Build up of collagen in the lungs is what has caused Fryefield to be put on the transplant list at Mayo.
“I’m going to get my transplant and I’m going to beat this thing,” said Fryefield. “Things are looking better than they were. My attitude has been very positive and that is what has kept me going.”
Circuit Court Chief Judge Don Moran echoed that sentiment as he awaits Fryefield’s return.
“I anticipate he will be back sooner rather than later,” said Moran. “In talking to him and his family, it sounds like he’s going to beat this thing.”
Fryefield’s legal career spans 35 years and he was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1995.