Rock Star's Dementia Cured With Surgery

| by Michael Allen

Dick Wagner, who played guitar for acts such as KISS, Aerosmith and Alice Cooper in the 1970s, had a stroke and a heart attack in 2007.

Wagner, now 70, said: "I woke up from a coma after two weeks with a paralyzed left arm. My profession as a guitarist, I thought was over."

Wagner underwent rehabilitation, but started to experience mental fuzziness and an odd walk, reports Yahoo! News.

Wagner recalled: "I couldn't turn to the left as I walked, only to the right, and I would do a spiral and fall. I fell completely flat on my face in the driveway on the concrete. I didn't know what had happened to me."

Wagner was diagnosed in 2011 with NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus), which is a buildup of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain.

The extra fluid puts pressure on the nerves, can cause bladder and motor skills problems, but with a simple surgery to insert a shunt, Wagner has shown much improvement.

Dr. Joseph Zabramski said: “The stroke he suffered usually produces relatively mild deficits, and over time patients are able to resume most normal activities. Dick cannot raise his left arm as well as he used to, but his fine motor function in his left hand is excellent. Music is Dick’s life and so he tried to resume playing but couldn’t. Once we had the shunt in place I saw the improvements. … Gradually, much to my pleasure, the old Dick Wagner returned.”

“He told me with big tears in his eyes that he wouldn’t be able to play guitar anymore. His manager was just about ready to say, ‘Dick, this is it.’ We put a shunt in and the guy’s playing again, flying around the world and producing records [on his independent label Desert Dreams Records] and playing in concerts again. It made a remarkable difference in his life.”

The shunt surgery is not for everyone, doctors say less than five percent of people diagnosed with dementia actually have NPH.