Patricia says she's always been clumsy. As a child, she was the one whose skinned knees never healed. She even took up ice-skating in an effort to improve her balance. But, before you think she was just being hard on herself, know this: Patricia had polio as a child.
So, when at age 72 she began to have trouble walking and began experiencing falls, her symptoms were evaluated first with an eye toward Post-Polio Syndrome.
"We heard a lot about it," she said of the emerging condition, "and most of the symptoms I had fit the profile." But her oldest daughter, Pam, worried when her mother's condition suddenly deteriorated from walking with a cane to being wheelchair-bound in only two months. As a result, Patricia went from independent living to having her daughter move in with her. And she began to have a most embarrassing problem, incontinence. This deviation from Post-Polio symptoms was attributed to age.
Because of her rapid decline, Patricia saw her doctor. He reviewed a number of possible health issues that caused similar and referred Patricia to a neurologist for further evaluation.
"We went home and sat down to watch TV," she continued. The program was "60 Minutes"; the segment featured Bob Fowler, a retired professional whose symptoms were a mirror image of Patricia's. Bob talked about life before his diagnosis and treatment for a disease called NPH.
Pam picks up the story: "I turned to my mother and said, ‘That's what you have!' I just knew from what he said – about his feet feeling ‘nailed to the floor,' his incontinence, and his memory issues – this was exactly what my mother had."
For her part, Patricia's mind was sparked by Bob's walking difficulties: "I knew just what he meant. I couldn't raise my feet even to go up a ramp." Although she didn't have much of the memory problem that is the third in the triad of NPH symptoms, Patricia had many falls, was unable to walk unassisted, and experienced frequent incontinence.
When mother and daughter went to the neurologist two days later, Pam told him about the program, the symptoms, and her belief that NPH – not Post-Polio or myriad other possibilities – was what her mother had. The doctor did tests that confirmed Patricia did indeed have NPH.
Two weeks later, on her 73rd birthday, Patricia had surgery to insert a CODMAN® HAKIM® Programmable Valve. HAKIM is a registered trademark of Hakim USA, LLC and is used under license by Codman & Shurtleff, Inc. She spent a week in the hospital recovering from surgery and then went to a skilled nursing center for physical therapy for another week or so.
"I was walking when I left the hospital," Patricia said. "It certainly felt good." She had always been a walker in addition to doing 30 minutes of daily exercise; these habits, she believes, helped hasten her recovery.
It's been nearly a year since her NPH diagnosis and surgery, and Patricia is back to a life that includes a lot of travel. In recent years she began to go on a trip with each of her daughters: With Pam, she went to China and Hong Kong; with her middle daughter, Penny, she went to the French Riviera. This fall, she traveled with her youngest daughter, Patryce, to enjoy the colorful extravagance of fall foliage in the north.
"It's miraculous," Patricia and Pam both said of the way things came together. "I might still be in a wheelchair if I hadn't seen that program," added Patricia. "I was depressed at the thought of life in a wheelchair, but now I'm back! I feel so grateful and so fortunate to have bright tomorrows."
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