Oriana Hargrove

Her personal struggle with NPH

Oriana It's hard to believe that over a year ago my wife was unable to walk, talk or take care of herself. She had severe dementia, incontinence, and was unable to move her feet. It was like they were glued to the floor.

Oriana's health started diminishing about 15 years ago. She was a great tennis player, and then one day, she couldn't play anymore. She couldn't run and even fell a few times. Ever so gradually Oriana's condition, along with her outlook and demeanor, began deteriorating. She became incontinent and developed progressive dementia. About five years ago, she started having seizures. Once she had a seizure at 3:00am and I had to give her CPR. I thought she was dead.

Over the years my wife was referred to many hospitals and clinics. I had to bring her to the emergency room six or seven times and she was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota twice, once because a rheumatologist told her she had arthritis. She even went through a rehabilitation program at Hanover County Hospital where they tried to help her walk again. Eventually, she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (a misdiagnosis) and was going to doctors several times a week. She ultimately ended up in an assisted care facility and I thought I was going to have to give up my public office.

Then one day, Oriana had a seizure that was so bad she was put in the psychiatric ward at St. Mary's Hospital in Richmond, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While at St. Mary's, a physician who specializes in rehabilitation medicine, recognized that Oriana was exhibiting symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH). He said that I should have her tested for the condition.

I'd never heard of NPH but wanted to have Oriana evaluated immediately so I went to her family physician to get a referral. He referred us to two doctors at the Medical College of Virginia.

They explained that they were going to put Oriana through two tests. The first one was done in the office where they drained a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid from her head. Since they saw great results from this, they put her through the second phase of testing, a three-day test, where they drain off additional fluid through an external lumbar drain. Since she responded so well to this, they diagnosed her with NPH and considered her a candidate for a shunt implant.

Even though they told me there was no guarantee that the shunt would work, there were instant results. It was like someone turned on a light switch. Before the valve implant she couldn't read or write and she was completely incontinent. The day after they put the shunt in, she wanted to read a book.

Today we enjoy a wonderful life together. Of course, at age 71, Oriana has her good days and her bad days, but I have my wife back.

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