We are doing Big Wow Walks in memory of our son Patrick Allen Melvin who passed away from Wilson’s Disease complications on September 29, 2015. We had started taking him to the doctor when he began middle school for various concerns (small symptoms of Wilson’s in looking back). He was not diagnosed until he was 33 and in a very advanced state of Wilsons. We had never heard of the disease and had to really push to get him tested for it when he showed sclerosis and a high copper count. His count was very high and after he was diagnosed they aggressively started kelating with Syprine. At the height of his kelatiing his medication was disrupted due to price hikes from Valeant and the time length necessary to get a grant and continue medication. He went through horrible symptoms during this time believing his clothes were on fire, drooling, slurred speech, inability to sleep, tremors that caused his arms to swing upward and behind his back obvious affects to his brain.
After contacting Mary at the Wilson’s Association we were able to get him back on his treatment although we will always believe due to the severe symptoms he had during that disruption caused damage to the brain that caused his stroke 9 months later.
He was our hero. He was an amazing young man with a huge heart, laugh and family and friends that loved him. He was the kind of guy that people would come to comfort or support him and they would leave with him having lifted them in some way –you always felt better after time with him and full of good spirits and will-he lit up a room and what we miss the most in or home is his beautiful laugh and positive spirit. He left behind brother, parents, nieces and nephews and two year old daughter and many friends all with broken hearts. We miss him horribly
It breaks our heart to look back and remember how many times we took him in stating that something wasn’t right and how it took 22 years to diagnosis the serious and for him fatal disease.
We hope this walk will give us all something to help remember him on the one year anniversary of his death and that awareness of Wilson’s and proper treatment and pricing for the medication will be addressed so the help is there when the disease is diagnosed.
Hi. My name is Janice and I'm 57y/o. In 1975, at the age of 15, while in 9th grade, I was diagnosed with Wilson's Disease. I have definitely been one of the lucky ones!!!!
I presented neurologically with symptoms that mimic Parkinson's. At that time, I drooled, had tremors, slurred speech, difficulty with swallowing, was generally uncoordinated, “giddy” per my mom and had illegible hand writing, so much so that my teachers used to give me my papers back saying that they couldn't grade it because they couldn't read it!!
I was on the morning announcement system and there were reports that it was too difficult to understand me because of my slurred speech. I couldn't read the announcements because my arms had such bad tremors that the paper wouldn't stop moving. My gym teacher called my mom to report that she noticed I had become uncoordinated in class. Kids that supposedly were my friends made fun of my slowed movements, and deliberate gait. That continued into my sophomore year which I remember to be very painful emotionally.
Thankfully my mom knew to take me to a pediatric neurologist at Cleveland Clinic as I've heard nightmares about incorrect diagnoses with devastating and even sometimes deadly outcomes. As I said before however, I'm one of the lucky ones!!!! The diagnosis was made by a fellow in training; my Kaiser Fleisher rings were visible to the naked eye, which assisted him in making the correct diagnosis! I was pretty upset! I remember hearing the word brain and freaking out! All I could imagine was that my beautiful long blond locks would need to get cut off for brain surgery!! And no more pizza or chocolate!! No way- they were my favorites of all food on earth!!!! (The thoughts of a 15y/o)‼️‼️
Thank God I was diagnosed early enough so that most of my symptoms reversed themselves over the years with the use of Cuprimine and following a low copper diet.
Years of being on the Cuprimine took a toll on my skin, and I eventually developed two rare side effects; Elastosis Perforans Serpiginosa otherwise known as EPS and what some people just call progeric wrinkling, but my dermatologist calls Elastosis which essentially is loss of elasticity of the skin. It occurs at the neck and at joints mostly.
I have always been extremely self conscious of these wrinkles and the EPS lesions especially when they were super obvious and presented all over my neck. Again, though, I lucked out as my understanding is that 50% of the time Cuprimine can exacerbate neurological symptoms. I thankfully didn't succumb to that one.
Trying to find a doctor to switch me to Syprene, a less toxic drug,presented a whole nother plethora of challenges. That was finally accomplished, and another switch and now I have been on Galzin for approximately 23 years.
I'm an Occupational Therapist, married, and have a son.
My later year struggles with WD have mostly been early arthritis requiring the need for bilateral knee replacements, and a few C-spine fusions starting in my thirties. I’ve also struggled with taking the zinc on an empty stomach as I developed Insulin Dependent Diabetes when I was 29 y/o and I sometimes awaken with a low sugar or have one right before bed which of course requires food and that is when I normally take the zinc, of course! I also need to say that I have recently had many issues with balance/falling a lot and memory/ not remembering words. Well, the FIRST thing to come to mind is of course, Wilson's. Could it be rearing it's ugly head AGAIN?? Of course it could, but it wasn't. It was other things causing these problems, thank God again!!
On my last note, I again want to reiterate HOW LUCKY I AM AND HOW BLESSED I FEEL!!!! And it is much more difficult living with the Diabetes than with the WD!!! I still consider myself a Wilson's Warrior however!!
This will be the first year my family hosts the Big WOW walk in our community. In April 2016 I was diagnosed with Wilson’s Disease. My husband and I have three young children that will need to be tested for WD as it is a genetic disorder. Since I have WD they will be carriers. Also future generations will need to be informed of WD, even if my children do not have it. Our five year old will hopefully have the test done sometime in September. Early detection is key to helping prevent symptoms so we are excited to get the testing done while they are still young.
WD symptoms can vary from mild to deadly, and can get progressively worse without treatment. They are different for everyone, sometimes affecting the liver and sometimes affecting the brain. My symptoms have been primarily neurological resulting in tremors, seizures, movement issues, and bouts of speech issues. I was diagnosis with 5 different health problems over the course of four years before all of it added up to WD. It took the combination of seizures, tremors, and low liver functions for me to ever learn about WD and getting the correct diagnosis. I praise God for a name for my condition and also for getting to experience the reversal of most of the health issues since I’ve started treatment with zinc.
One very interesting thing I’ve learned about copper is that it is used in some barometers. This means that as the air pressure drops, copper mass increases. For me this means whenever temperatures rise really quickly or a storm front is coming through, I will most likely have seizures. There is just enough copper in my brain to be affected by the changing weather. Most days though, when the weather is mild, I am symptom free now that I am taking zinc.
Going back to the fall of 2012, at age 25 is where my story begins. I had my first baby in March, and the nurses told me I might be anemic for a while. After 6 months I still wasn’t feeling well. I was tired all the time and really light-headed. Blood work revealed a vitamin D deficiency and slight malnutrition; the doctor assured me it was nothing to worry about.
A couple months passed, and I didn’t feel any better. I started falling down a lot in the evenings. I would just be walking across the floor and fall for no reason, and would crawl around afterwards, like I couldn’t remember how to walk. The next morning I would wake up and walk just fine. About that same time I started getting muscle spasms and felt really shaking.
Time went by and I saw my aunt having health issues, shaking hands and head nodding. Her shaking looked like how I was feeling, and I found out her issues are called dystonia. Actually quite a few family members on that side have different types of dystonia. Now I had a clue for my doctor, so he ordered an MRI and EEG and set me to a neurologist for the results. While looking at the MRI, the neurologist paused to point out white spots. He said something like “Hmm, I’ve never seen that before. The machine must have had a glitch.” Since he wasn’t concerned with it, neither was I. (Copper shows up white on an MRI scan. Major indicator of WD!)
A few more months passed and I had medicine for the dystonia. Sometimes it didn’t seem to help and I noticed there were certain buildings I felt instantly sick in and would go outside and feel ok again. By sick I mean they would send me into an instant acute dystonic attack. That basically means my arms and legs would twist and I had really obvious muscle spasms. One of these episodes happened in my hometown and our local RN saw it. She told my mom I needed to go back to the neurologist because it looked like a seizure. So I did some research and found blue polarized sunglasses would help prevent seizures. I also learned reflex epilepsy happens deeper in the brain so it doesn’t usually show up on EEGs. The neurologist said it could be either partial complex seizures or A-typical migraines, such as hemiplegic migraines.
I heard of a doctor who was pretty good at figuring out odd cases, I went to him, and he issued another round of routine blood work. He also gave me some diet tips for seizure patients. I tried the diet tips and before the nurse called with the blood work results I was mentally going nuts. My brain was going a hundred miles an hour and my body was exhausted. She called with the test results and said, “Everything looked good, except low liver function, which is probably malnutrition”. We talked for a little bit and I decided since my liver scores were still low and it had been 4 years, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to research what I should eat to help with the malnutrition.
Before I began searching the web, I shot up a desperate prayer asking God for answers. I remembered reading the book 1000 Gifts and how a name for what was wrong was so much better than the sickness being unnamed, even if it was a bad sickness. That was my prayer, just a name for what was wrong. Within a few moments my fingers were clicking and lower liver function had a link to WD symptoms. There I saw tremors, seizures and low liver function all listed together. A Pinterest search showed a boy with his body twisted and cramped and it was like looking in a mirror. That was the same twisting and cramped posture my body would go into when I had an episode. I spent a few days searching everything I could on it, and found so much relief and fear in how much I could relate. I was so sure I had a name for it now! I asked my chiropractor if she had any zinc and she grabbed my hand to look at my fingernails. She said that there would be white spots on them if I was zinc deficient and I definitely had quite a few of those. She agreed it wouldn’t hurt to try taking zinc. I liked that idea since what I had read on WD said the medication usually prescribed caused severe neurological deterioration during initial treatment. I was just getting ready for tax season to start, so I waited until after tax season to have my blood work done. Five months of taking the zinc, pretty much all of my health issues went away and the doctor confirmed that Wilson’s Disease was the culprit. It was a long journey back to wellness, but I hope my experience can help others be aware, especially my family members who have similar symptoms.
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