Minnesota woman Jean Sharon Abbott spent 30 years of her life suffering from what doctors said was cerebral palsy. Abbott was shocked to discover that nearly all of her symptoms could be cured with just one pill when a new doctor took a second look at her original diagnosis. In spite of spending three decades suffering from near immobility, muscle spasms, weakness, and undergoing numerous medical procedures, Abbott says she harbors no resentment from the doctor who misdiagnosed her as a child.
Jean Sharon Abbott, 38, was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, when she was only four. When the Plymouth, Minnesota women turned 33, a new doctor told her that she actually had dopa-responsive dystonia (DRD), a rare, but treatable, muscle disorder.
“Honestly, I’ve never had any negative thoughts about what I went through. Even though I had challenges, my parents were so good with dealing with my disability and didn’t ‘baby’ me. Also, I had true friendships that I never had to question. All of my life experiences made me who I am today — and I like me,” Jean Abbott said during an interview with the Daily Mail.
When the then 4-year-old was diagnosed with spastic diplegia, she was reportedly considered a textbook case of the disorder, even though Abbott’s MRI and CAT scans results did not reportedly show any “typical symptoms” of the cerebral palsy condition. Because Abbott’s neurologist was regarded as “one of the best” in the field, second opinions in the case did not reportedly offer any other possible diagnoses.
“I had been seen by one of the best in the country, if not the world, and my parents even took me to the leading hospital in the U.S. for a second opinion. They confirmed the spastic diplegia diagnosis and said that my doctor taught all of them,” Jean Sharon Abbott also noted.
While the Minnesota woman admitted that she had wished that she was not forced to deal with the physical symptoms of the cerebral palsy conditions “plenty of times” she said she still had a “fantastic” childhood. As a child, Abbott had to rely on help from others to complete routine daily tasks.
When she was 12, Abbott said she was subjected to a “very painful” muscle transfer to prevent her knees from “knocking together” when she walked. The woman misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy for 30 years compared the pain from the procedure to that of open heart surgery. Still, she said she was glad that her parents encouraged the muscle transfer procedure and said in the end, she could walk better and did not “trip over herself” as she moved.
“I was never one to dwell on my disability or to think about it too much, other than when I was at these doctor appointments. I guess I was too busy trying to live a normal life and having fun with my friends and family,” Jean Abbott said.
Abbott, now a mother-of-three, said she had a pump implanted in her body to help better distribute medicine. The pump caused her to become over-medicated and she scheduled an appointment to address the issue. The doctor’s appointment was life-changing. The physician questioned the cerebral palsy diagnosis and sent Abbott to see a different neurologist.
The new specialists told Abbott that she had been living with DRD for three decades and said one daily dose of the L-Dopa medication would improve or erase all of her symptoms. The neurologist also said that DRD is a disorder which created involuntary muscle tremors and contractions and is “often mistaken” for cerebral palsy and other conditions.
Jean Abbott was skeptical about the new diagnosis. She felt sure she had spastic diplegia and was not going to fill the L-dopa prescription until her husband convinced her to give the medication a try.
“When I began taking it, I was the biggest skeptic. I was expecting no results whatsoever and couldn’t imagine a life any other way,” Abbott said. She was given her new diagnosis on Good Friday in 2010 and on Easter Sunday, Abbott stood and walked without assistance for the first time. Within four months the Minnesota woman misdiagnosed for 30 years could walk to places that she formerly would have been carried to. Abboot grew stronger and was ultimately able to finish a 10-mile hike with her husband.
“I was so proud of myself and thought that there are so many people in the world that physically can do stuff like this but choose not to. And I began to think of all the places I would love to travel with my family that wouldn’t have been an option before,” Jean Sharon Abbott added.
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