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Thursday, August 1, 2013

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


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.


By Bob DeMarco
+Alzheimer's Reading Room 


I don't mind admitting there were times when I was hoping for a miracle with Dotty. By this I mean hoping something extraordinary would happen and she would wake up.

Poof, Alzheimer's gone.

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Hypothyroidism for example. After I read about it I asked Doc C if he would take a good hard look at Dotty's thyroid. He did and concluded it looked in his words "suspicious".

He decided to prescribe the lowest dose of a thyroid medication and to monitor her blood closely.

Turns out we received half a miracle.

Dotty had not smiled or laughed for over two years. She took the medication and the next day she started laughing and smiling. We were on our way after that happened.

No, it did not cure her Alzheimer's.

One time I was thinking about buying one of those machines were you hang upside down. The idea to hang Dotty upside down and see if the logjam in her brain would break (open up). I never tried it. Maybe someone will read this and give it a try.

I had quite a few whacky ideas as I traveled the long and winding road of Alzheimer's caregiving. I do mean for all eight and a half years. I think it is true to say, I never gave up hope.

Yes, I believe in miracles.

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

Jimmy Nowells' had 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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Related Content
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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.”

To learn more about Alzheimer's and Dementia visit the Alzheimer's Reading Room.