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  • Writer's pictureKatie & Elisabeth

How'd we get here?

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Patti and Al at the beginning

October 29, 2020 will live in infamy in our family since it's the day our mom was diagnosed with ALS. Alone and in shock after leaving the neurologist's office, she drove herself home and broke the news

to the family.

We were in disbelief, not wanting to register this diagnosis as real. In fact, we had felt some relief after a visit with a neurologist this summer who had ruled out MS. At that point, MS seemed like the worst case scenario, and ALS was not even in our peripheral vision. This was a woman who worked out everyday and had hiked up and down the hills of San Francisco only a year before. This was a newly retired woman who dove into pools with her granddaughters and got up at the crack of dawn to bake cakes, fold five loads of laundry, and walk the beach.

Looking back, however, the signs were there. And, unfortunately, ALS is a disease that takes awhile to diagnose since there is no clear test and it involves process of elimination.

In July 2019, Patti started to trip on walks, frequently catching her toe. She also experienced some hip and lower back pain, for which she went to a chiropractor beginning that October. Her right foot became increasingly numb and difficult to lift. Diagnosed with drop foot by a sports medicine doctor, she eventually had to rely on a fitted foot brace that inserts into her sneaker. There were also several random falls that made her increasingly worried about her control of her right foot and leg.

After months of questions and no clear answers, she started physical therapy in early 2020. The plan was to see a neurologist in April; however, Covid-19 pushed the appointment back months. It wasn't until July 2020 when Patti met with a neurologist in person and underwent an EMG. He reported nerve damage in her right foot and lower leg. In the follow-up to that appointment, he assured her that she didn't have MS or require surgery, but he reported that the nerve damage was extensive and permanent. That's okay, we thought, sighing with relief, she can manage with a slight limp.

It wasn't until the second appointment on October 29, 2020 that the neurologist told Patti he suspected lower limb onset ALS. Through tears, she relayed the information to Al and then called Katie and Elisabeth.

Determined to confront this illness head-on, the Drinks made a plan to seek out the best medical care and advice available. Patti met with a team of expert doctors at the Healey Center at Mass General Hospital in late November. She is anxious to get started with the very best treatment and confront this new phase of life with positivity and strength.

Patti and Al on June 21, 1980. Like the flowers from Patti's garden that surround them 40 years later, their love story continues to blossom vibrantly with each passing year.


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