As Keith revealed in the June 5 episode of the reality show's 14th season, he has osteomyelitis — a severe bacterial infection — in his spine. "My back is all f--ked up," he told his crew. He also said his vertebrae look like they've been doused in battery acid.
According to the Mayo Clinic, infections can reach the bone through the bloodstream or from nearby tissue. Osteomyelitis was once considered incurable, but these days it can be successfully treated with surgery and intravenous antibiotics.
Sure enough, Keith has to have antibiotics injected intravenously every day and thus can't join the other guys on the high seas this season. In his lieu, he named his brother, Monte Colburn, as captain. "I'm leaving the boat in your hands," he told Monte. "That's it, okay? You deal with the all the s--t, the whole f--king shebang. You know what to do."
And it'll be baptism by fire for the new captain, as he'll have to bring in more than 77 tons of bairdi crab in one week. "You know, my brother's health, critical as it is, it’s not something I'm really in the position to even think about, because these guys are counting on me to go out and fill those tanks with crab, and it ain't going to be easy," Monte said on the show.
Keith's health issue is just the latest in a long line of misfortunes for the Deadliest Catch cast. Keith himself previously suffered a heart attack, but has fortunately been on the mend ever since. Cast member Blake Painter died at age 38 of a reported drug overdose on May 25; and Captain Phil Harris died at age 53 of stroke complications in 2010.
We'll miss seeing Keith aboard the Wizard, and we wish him a speedy recovery. Meanwhile, we'll see how the crew gets along without him as Deadliest Catch continues on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.