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When Alzheimer's isn't Alzheimer's -- It's a Miracle

Posted Jun 22 2009 12:30pm
You probably noticed by now that I write over and over, make sure you get a good personal care physician. It took me 4 tries to find the right person for my mother--she suffers from Alzheimer's disease. I forgot to mention the nurses.

Eighteen years ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away 11 months later.

He had a wish--he wanted to die at home. My mother, and I, with a tremendous amount of help and support from Hospice gave him his wish.

When my father was dying, I repeatedly tried to get information from the oncologist. I wanted to know what to expect, how things unfold, where we were in the cycle, and the patterns I could expect. He would never give me a direct answer.

When the nurse from Hospice came on the scene, she answered all of my questions. She told me what to expect. She talked to me about the typical patterns of what was to come. Most importantly, she told me what was likely to happen right before my father would die. Of course, she told me he could die at any time. She told me all the caveats, and all the things that could happen at any time.

Everything the nurse told would happen--did happen. Including her exact description 4 months in advance of what would happen when he started to die. This gave me the opportunity to call everyone and tell them to come.

The thing to note here is that nurses are often the one's that know and will tell. They see a lot. Over and over. They are well aware of the patterns. And, a good nurse is not afraid to communicate.

Jimmy Nowells' was diagnosed with Parkinson's and then Alzheimer's. He didn't have either disease as it turns out.

Jimmy Nowells' has a daughter. His daughter never believed he had Alzheimer's. Jimmy Nowells daughter is a nurse.

This story is about Jimmy and his family. And, his daughter--the nurse.
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Man misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's making remarkable full recovery

Joi Louviere Times Record News Saturday, June 20, 2009

In 2006, Jimmy Nowells was told he had Parkinson’s disease and received treatment. Later that year, he was told he had Alzheimer’s and was given medicine to control that.

It turns out Nowells didn’t have either disease.

A retired auto parts salesman, Nowells, 67, is one of many patients who are misdiagnosed each year. While Nowells was being pumped with medicines to regulate the diseases doctors thought he had, he really suffered from normal pressure hydrocephalus, a treatable condition.

About 10 years ago, Nowells started developing the symptoms. He had trouble walking, which he describes as trying to walk when his feet have been glued to the ground. His problems walking led to frequent falls. He also experienced confusion and a slowing of his reflexes and suffered from urinary urgency.

“He started doing things that just weren’t normal for him,” said his daughter, Tammy Wallace. “He just started going away. He just wasn’t my dad.”

With Nowells unable to drive, do yard work, clean up around the house, and barely able to walk, his wife, Ann, took on all of the responsibilities. She said it was like her husband reverted back to being a 2-year-old and she was playing mother all over again.

Their daughter is a nurse in Waco, Texas, and never took Nowells’ diagnoses as fact.

“She never gave up on this deal,” Ann Nowells said. “She knew it wasn’t Alzheimer’s.”

With Wallace’s persistence, the day came when they found out the truth.

Nowells’ nervous system was floating in fluid. A normal brain has a perfect balance of the fluid coming in with the fluid going out. As Nowells got older, his brain stopped reabsorbing the fluid, leaving pressure to build up.

Nowells was one of the lucky ones. He had no irreversible damage from all the months of taking the wrong medicines and he was able to make a full recovery after having a shunt placed in his head. The shunt was designed to reroute the fluid to another part of his body that would better absorb the fluid.

The family’s doctor referred Nowells to a neurologist who would perform the surgery that would give him a second chance at life.

Dr. Patrick Gleason, Nowells’ neurologist, hoped that Nowells would have a complete turnaround but was prepared for different. Every case is different and many don’t experience a full recovery.

“It’s such a spectacular outcome for the patient and his family. It’s one of the best results I’ve ever seen,” Gleason said.

Gleason said he thinks too many elderly expect their health to diminish. He urged them not to accept ailments as a normal thing that comes along with age and said these things can be treated.

Nowells is glad his daughter didn’t just accept his failing health. “She’s a daddy’s girl and it really showed up,” he said.

Ann Nowells couldn’t be happier with the results of her husband’s surgery. “I walk around with a grin on my face all the time. I truly could not believe I got my husband back,” She said.

Nowells is back to his old self, walking without a cane, cracking jokes, and playing 42 with his buddies. “It’s just wonderful. The results are fantastic,” he said. “It’s kind of remarkable.”

Ann Nowells disagreed.

“No, it’s a miracle.”

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 600 articles with more than 11,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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