Musicians jam for one of their own

Local musicians are staging a benefit jam for Armstrong-born-and-raised Mike Nitchie (left), now of the Vancouver-based band Blue Scarlett. Nitchie is battling a bleeding disorder. The benefit jam will run Saturday, March 9, at Armstrong’s Branding Iron Pub. - Photo submitted
Local musicians are staging a benefit jam for Armstrong-born-and-raised Mike Nitchie (left), now of the Vancouver-based band Blue Scarlett. Nitchie is battling a bleeding disorder. The benefit jam will run Saturday, March 9, at Armstrong’s Branding Iron Pub.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Musicians are coming together to support one of their own.

A benefit jam night is being organized for Saturday at the Branding Iron Pub in Armstrong to help raise funds for Mike Nitchie, an Armstrong-born musician battling a rare disease.

“We have played music with Mike and Mike is also a good friend of mine from PVSS (Pleasant Valley Secondary School). We graduated together from PVSS in the same year, and also went on to study at UVic together at the music school there,” said Paul Moore of the New Classics, a Vernon-based band.

Moore and fellow New Classic John Noseworthy are organizing the benefit. The Dan Engelland Blues Band will serve as the host group for the jam. All musicians are welcome to attend.

Donations will be taken at the door and a 50/50 draw will be held to raise funds for Nitchie, 46, who was born and raised in Armstrong, graduating from Pleasant Valley Secondary in 1985. He was accepted into the University of Victoria music program on saxophone, but switched to bass guitar partway through his degree.

Nitchie played with the Victoria, Okanagan and Prince George symphonies before exploring pop music.

“Over the years, I have played with various artists and toured across Canada and the States,” said Nitchie, who has shared the stage with the likes of Randy Bachman, Jerry Adolphe (Chilliwack), Gary Grace (Prism), Ray Roper (Stonebolt) and Aaron Pritchett. “These years include the time spent performing live, recording albums with a single on the radio, and filming a video, which was aired on CMT with recording artist Ken McCoy.”

Nitchie has been nominated several times for B.C. Country Music Association bass player of the year award, and has won Band of the Year three times. He now runs his own Vancouver-based band, Blue Scarlett, with his wife, Marni, as lead singer, Manitoba’s Garry Wenger on guitar and Salmon Arm’s Jeremy Tymkiw on drums.

Nitchie was recently diagnosed with Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), a bleeding disorder, as well as having AVMs (arteriovenous malformations) and no filters to keep old blood mixing with new blood.

He found out about the disease through his niece, who was being treated for a car accident at Vernon Jubilee Hospital. Nitchie discovered HHT is hereditary, does not skip a generation and can manifest itself in many ways.

“This led us to the understanding that there would be some of us that have this disease as well,” said Nitchie, who watched as his sister had to have immediate brain surgery when a surgeon discovered she had an abscess on her brain caused by bacteria that had entered her bloodstream during a visit to the dentist.

Nitchie has always had difficulty with low energy, occasional seizures in his sleep as well as prolific daily nosebleeds since high school, which no one seemed able to diagnose and seemed committed to a lifetime of nosebleeds until the HHT diagnosis.

“I ended up going through a battery of tests including blood, CT, MRI scans, and many more to see how I have been affected by this disease,” said Nitchie. “During my MRI and the following angiogram they found that I had three AVMs in my brain, one that was at great risk of hemorrhaging.”

Nitchie went into Vancouver General Hospital in June 2012 and had the AVM removed. Four days after the surgery, he had a grand mal seizure, which meant being placed on anti-seizure medication, disabling him from driving.

During the first week of August, Nitchie began leaking from the incision site and discovered he had a staph infection. More surgery followed, along with IV antibiotics for two months.

Just before Christmas, Nitchie started leaking again from his head.

“On Jan. 2, we went to emergency again. After another CT scan, they found bone flap (the piece taken off during my first surgery) was still infected, and had to be removed, so a third surgery was undertaken,” he said. “This time the surgeon decided it would be better to throw the piece of bone away, which left me with a hole in my head about the size of the bottom of a coffee mug, followed by another two months of IV antibiotics.

Nitchie is currently finishing the antibiotics and awaits another surgery in six months to insert a titanium plate to cover the missing bone in his skull. He has to protect his head/soft spot and be careful not to get another infection.

“I would like to raise awareness for HHT as there still is a lot to learn about the disease,” said Nitchie. “If you have any symptoms including excessive nosebleeds, clubbed fingernails from low oxygen levels, unexplained seizures, and AVMs, you may want to get tested.”

Besides the fundraiser, Nitchie’s band Blue Scarlett  is headlining a show at The Green in Vernon’s Village Green Hotel on Friday, March 8.


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