I believe it is worth mentioning that during my father's time in Afghanistan, bombs landed in close vicinity to where he was residing with my uncle. He mentioned the possibility of their exposure to these toxic gases. Of note, there was no genetic history of neurological diseases tied to my fathers family tree. However, not long after my father's symptoms developed, my uncle was diagnosed with a rare demyelinating disease. He quickly found himself wheelchair bound. Even after searching for answers from the best health care professionals across Europe as well as at Johns Hopkins, my uncle passed away without a diagnosis.
The subtle symptoms that slowly built up were now telling a much bigger story. It was time to seek medical advice for my fathers now rapidly progressing health decline. He was diagnosed with Parkinsons in Indiana. The top neurologists educated our family that the disease would progressively worsen with limited treatment options. Conventional medications were attempted. However, as feared, my father's symptoms rapidly progressed.
We sought 2nd and 3rd opinions without any new diagnosis or treatment but the cogwheel rigidity, shuffled gait and constant tearing continued. I was not convinced this was Parkinson’s. I reached out to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota searching for more answers and hopefully a better diagnosis. Call it stubbornness or just a hunch, but after months of waiting and a week of evaluations, my father was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy. This is a much more aggressive form of a degenerative brain disease that is very rare. It is difficult to diagnose as it mimics other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. Unfortunately, very little treatment was available. We continued to watch my fathers deterioration. Ultimately, we lost him to a heart attack peacefully while sleeping. This experience taught me that no symptom is too subtle. Many neurodegenerative diseases begin with little changes and it is up to each and every one of us to pay attention to our loved ones. If we can try and manage these symptoms early, we can do our part in improving the quality of life.
Dr. Salma Aziz DPM, MS is a podiatrist and the owner of the Foot and Ankle Specialty Group in Orange County.
Her certifications include:
Diplomate, American Board of Podiatric Surgery 09’ Fellow, American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons 09´. American Board of Podiatric Surgery Degree