Little known diagnosis changes local woman’s life

Special Reports

It may feel like a miracle, but it was one woman’s diagnosis and treatment that truly gave her a second chance in life.

Carol Palmateer, 77, started falling in her Gloversville home five years ago. She says she became lost in an unforgiving fog.

“I was falling, but I just thought people fall, I guess,” she said.

It got progressively worse, and Carol says she fell in every store in Gloversville. Soon, she was wheelchair bound. She couldn’t cook or walk or even recognize her own grandsons.

“I couldn’t tie my shoes; I couldn’t get dressed,” she said. “There wasn’t much I could do!”

Her family became desperate, so they went to Albany Medical Center’s Department of Neurosurgery where Jonathan Melius diagnosed Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. 

“Not many people know about this diagnosis, or that it even exists,” he said. 

That’s because it looks like so many other diseases. It often mimics conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or Dementia. 

The symptoms include a slow shuffling gate, cognitive decline, and sometimes urinary incontinence. If a patient has those symptoms, then an image of the brain is taken to see if there is an abundance of spinal fluid.  If so, doctors think the fluid is stretching the brain that causes the three symptoms. 

Once diagnosed, a shunt and catheter is implanted. Neurosurgeon Tyler Kenning performed the hour-long surgery so that the catheter will carry the fluid from the brain to the belly.

“We have had very good luck putting them in and keeping them running long-term, and patients have very good results,” he said.

And Carol is living proof! It was about eight weeks after the surgery that she began to see big benefits. One day, she just got up and started walking.

“Just like that, with no cane or nothing!” she said.

Now, Carol’s family has her back. She cooks, cleans, shops. Something her daughter, Lori Stewart, thought she would never do again. 

“Without that diagnosis and without that surgery, quite honestly,  I don’t know where she would be,” Lori said. 

There is not a lot of public awareness about Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, so if you would like to know more about it, just go to amc.edu/nph

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