As many of you know, my grandmother is ill. She is recovering from heart surgery. What I haven’t mentioned much about is my aunt, her sister. My grandmother is everything to my aunt. My aunt never married and until my grandmother married at 45, they were roommates.
They are best friends, confidants, and a large part of each other support system. My aunt is also quite ill. She has been ill for some time, though. As long as I can remember, in fact. I have vague memories of her working in a law office, and of visiting her there, and meeting her co-workers. I remember when she went back to school and graduated from college at 65, cum laude, I believe, but just a few years later, she became increasingly ill. She had to stop working and my grandmother became her sole support.
She still lives on her own, but she has a nurse’s aid 24 hours a day. She has incredible difficulty walking. I remember years ago, listening to my grandmother say, “Ruthie, pick up you feet! Just pick up you feet! Stop shuffling!” She would go to doctor after doctor, physical therapist after therapist, but to no avail. Nothing help. She started to fall. The uneven city streets of New York are no place for someone unable to lift her feet. Finally, recently, she bought a wheel chair with great reluctance. She has also had depression for much of her life. And top all of that off, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease about five years ago. Her hands now shake so badly, she can barely sign her name.
These ailments make her irritable and angry. She hates the state of herself, and that she can’t fix it. She feels like she hurting the people around her because she can’t fix herself. She has no interest in the things the used to love, and she seems to drift in and out of conversations.
My aunt was an amazing person. A career woman before it was fashionable, beautiful and full a vibrant energy that could be both endearing and provoking. She wasn’t afraid to tell you her opinion, and to be quite honest that is one thing that hasn’t left her. She was also very, very intelligent. Genius IQ intelligent. Yet most of these things have been lost to her ailments. She is shell of the incredibly vivacious person she once was.
But today, we may have discovered a cause.
Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Basically, “water” on the brain. But there is a treatment. And my aunt shows all of the classic symptoms. Particularly the shuffling gait. That was the first symptom to appear. There is a commercial playing that I often see on CNN. That is what spurred our interest in learning more about this condition. My mother saw the same commercial and came in to work talking about it. Bob, the man in the commercial had the tortured gait. Virtually the same gait of my aunt. This video almost made me cry watching it. It is like watching my aunt.
The treatment, a shunt to remove the CSF from the ventricles of the brain, can in some cases, completely reverse the tremulous gait, and clear up dementia.
At this point, we can only hope that this is the cause of my aunt’s deterioration. But that hope has given me a new outlook on my aunt. I would be beyond ecstatic to have the opportunity to re-meet my aunt. The stories I want to hear, the knowledge she could give me, the scrabble games she could beat me at!
Please keep her and my family in your thoughts. The diagnosis of this condition could change her life. I can’t tell you how amazing that could be.