Friday, October 06, 2006

A Shocking Piece of the Puzzle

My visit yesterday to see Neil Spiegel, a specialist in physiatry, handed me a new piece to the puzzle of my strange gait, and one that left me incredulous. Dr. Spiegel postulates with great certainty that I had a mild case of CP (cerebral palsy) when I was in utero.

How could that be? I thought about all the CP children I had ever felt sorry for. They were in wheelchairs. They held their limbs in peculiar ways. Their heads tilted to the side. I never looked like that!

He suggests that I was able to compensate until just the last few years, fairly well disguising the effects of this stroke in utero – I learned that is what CP is. It’s a brain cramp that can have a wide spectrum of effects. In my case, it was a slight weakening of my right leg and foot that now causes me to swing my right leg out and around when I walk. He says that I am basically walking on my left leg.

This condition, which goes under the broad term of spasticity, is common to people with MS, those who have had strokes, and those individuals who suffer from CP. He determined that I could not have lived for 57 years with MS without it becoming considerably worse. The fact that I’ve had this condition all my life points only to CP. We both decided that it’s not worth an MRI to confirm his diagnosis.

The important thing now is to intervene with some form of therapy that deals with the constricted muscles that are making it increasingly difficult for me to walk easily. I now understand why my round of physical therapy last year and my weekly massages, which I gave up several months ago, were so beneficial. It’s exactly this form of therapy that I most need.

Dr. Spiegel did some painful stretching that actually showed demonstrable results in the office. I will continue to see him probably every 2-3 weeks for a while, getting acupuncture as well as physical stretching from him. I will supplement this with visits to my physical therapist Quentin, who now has an office in Virginia. At some point, I may attempt to put massage back into this therapy picture.

Although it is a shock to hear such a diagnosis, I am relieved to finally start to understand this physical condition of mine that has puzzled doctors and therapists alike for 57 years. I am encouraged that I may be able to prevent any further deterioration and even to become stronger with the help of Dr. Spiegel and Quentin. I am so luck to have found people who can think outside the box because this is quite a puzzle!


Blogger Old Lady said...

Yea! Doesn't that take a load off your mind? It's a wonder we ever make it into this world with all the things that can and do happen in utero.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Yes, I can understand why it would be settling to at least know what you're dealing with and encouraging to find out there are things you can do to improve your condition. You have done well compensating for what you can't do.
You must have had some difficulty running the track etc. when you were a kid. What about skipping or biking as a child? Was it hard? We spent tons of time skipping and riding bikes.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

OL -- I've never given much thought to what happened BEFORE I was born. This opens up a whole new realm.

MOI -- I never had any problem riding a bike. But I once broke my big toe (the only bone I have ever broken) skipping rope -- on the right foot of course. And I was always horrible at running track. In the 6th grade I distinctly remember a boy named Mike Emerson asking my why I wobbled when I ran. Until then I hadn't realized that I looked different from the other kids.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Wow. That's amazing. (I'm a little speechless with amazement. Thus, the lack of a decent comment.)

11:43 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Trust another kid to draw that to your attention! When I came back from being away for 4 months, after being diagnosed with Diabtese in Gr. 9, the first thing I heard was this kid yell out loudly, "Ew, are you ever skinny!" I was of course, (96 lbs at 5'9", same height as now and I now weigh 150!!)but I didn't need to hear that!

11:42 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

It is always interesting to hear new ideas and solutions or views on our problems, however, I always take them with a grain of salt - perhaps it is my innate distaste of being labeled. While it is nice to have a name for something, sometimes I feel this stems from a primitive belief that in naming something we have power over it. For this reason, the ancient Jews had private names and public names. This is why God never reveals his name, other than to say, "I am".

12:43 PM  

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