Patricia D.

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“There is life to be lived and everyday she’s in therapy is a good day. If we didn’t have that, our lives would be very closed and very difficult. It gives us something to work for. It gives us a goal. It gives us exercises that feed the mind and body instead of taking away. I don’t know what I would do without it.” – Dennis D.

After the passing of her mother in 2014, Patricia D. and her husband Dennis went to Oregon to visit their son and enjoy nature by hiking through the mountains. Shortly after returning to Wyalusing that fall, Patti became short of breath during her daily walks. Something that was very out of character for the 66 year old. The retired speech therapist always had a very healthy and active lifestyle, never even requiring medication. The events that followed changed their lives forever.

Patti and her husband spent years in and out of medical appointments, receiving a variety of diagnoses and treatments that never seemed to make her any better; in fact she was getting worse. From depression and anxiety, to Lyme disease, malnutrition, heart troubles, and Adrenal Fatigue, Patti received diagnosis after diagnosis. With her symptoms widening and affecting her balance and motor functions, and medications wreaking havoc on her mind and body, doctors sent Patti for a neurology consult at Geisinger in Danville. Within two days of her visit, Patti and Dennis learned that the team at Geisinger believed Patti had Corticobasal degeneration (CBD), a Parkinson-like disease.

Aside from Parkinson’s Disease (PD), there are a number of other so-called a-typical parkinsonian syndromes. These conditions are often referred to as “Parkinson’s Plus” because they mimic PD but have extra associated symptoms. They include dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), multiple system atrophy (MSA), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and corticobasal degeneration (CBD).

Corticobasal degeneration leads primarily to motor symptoms and cognitive symptoms that affect memory and thinking. Motor symptoms mainly affect one arm and/or hand and include:

  • slowness
  • stiffness
  • myoclonus (rapid muscle jerks)
  • dystonia (an abnormal, fixed posture)

The dystonic posture may cause the arm to be held close to the body and bent at the elbow and the wrist. In Patti’s case, her right arm was held at a 90 degree angle.

Cognitive problems can affect speech, memory and behavior. Brain-processing difficulties can make performing complex motions, such as combing hair or turning a key in a lock, challenging or impossible. People with CBD may also experience “alien limb phenomenon,” which is involuntary activity of a limb and a feeling that the limb is foreign or has a will of its own. For example, an “alien hand” could take one’s eyeglasses off after the other hand has put them on. With all its complications, depression and anxiety are a common side effect of CBD.

The incidence and prevalence of CBD in the United States are unknown, but have been estimated at 1 per 100,000 people. CBD is easily misdiagnosed because no blood or imaging test can, on its own, make a definitive diagnosis. As with PD, the diagnosis is based on a person’s medical history and physical examination. A poor response to standard PD medications, development of additional symptoms and more rapid progression of disease may eventually differentiate Parkinson’s Plus from PD, although it can take years for these differences to emerge.

After nearly 3 years of misdiagnosis and failed treatments, Patti finally had a diagnosis that matched all of her symptoms, however after being discharged from a local rehab group, because they felt they could no longer help, she and her husband felt alone and confused again.

With almost six months before her neurology follow-up, Dennis refused to sit idly by and watch his wife waste away. After hours of research, Dennis knew exercise and proper therapy would play a key role in helping his wife’s condition. Dennis came across Allied Services and Heinz Rehab and was eventually teamed up with Kristina Dorkoski, PT, DPT, NCS, PYT, CPI and Megan Horeis, PT, DPT, WCS.

Dorkoski specializes in the evaluation and treatment of adults with Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and vestibular disorders. She is a staff physical therapist on the neurologic team at Allied Services/ Heinz Rehab outpatient center in Wilkes-Barre.

Horeis is a physical therapist at Allied Services Luger Rehab Center in Scranton. She has more than 17 years experience in treating men and women of all ages with pelvic floor dysfunction. Prior to moving to the region, Megan developed women’s health programs throughout Native American hospitals in the southwest.

To provide the best care possible for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Allied Services provides a comprehensive, seamless continuum of rehabilitative care. Through highly specialized therapy programs like pelvic rehab, LSVT BIG and LOUD, and Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery (PWR); and equipment like Theracycle, Dennis has witnessed incredible changes in his wife’s condition. After arriving in a wheelchair, Patti is walking again regaining her strength and spirit. While the long commute to therapy can be painful for Patti, Dennis knows the benefits are worth the time and effort.

Allied Services outpatient rehabilitation facilities regularly outperform other outpatient rehabilitation providers nationwide. According to statistics compiled by the Press Ganey, Allied Services’ overall patient satisfaction score ranks in the top 10% of participating outpatient rehabilitation centers in the United States.​

“When you hear the words, you have CBD, you’re not going to get any better. You instantly feel isolated, and with such a rare form of Parkinson’s it’s easy to feel lost” says Dennis. Because PD affects each person differently, Dennis notes “having a strong relationship with your therapy team can help you to manage your specific situation, now and as your condition changes; and learn about resources that are available. You are not alone! ”

Learn more about Parkinson's Treatment at Allied Services.

Couple dancing in an old photo.Couple dancing in a current photo.