Rock Star's Dementia: Dick Wagner's Nightmare After Stroke [VIDEO]

By IScience Times Staff Reporter on January 16, 2013 11:46 PM EST

Rock star dementia
This rock star's dementia took on nightmare proportions after his stroke in 2007. But after a shunt was inserted to reroute fluid to an abdomen cavity, Dick Wagner is finally doing what he loves best: playing. (Photo: Facebook)

A rock star's dementia took on a different kind of nightmare when he started to become mentally fuzzy after a stroke in 2007.

Dick Wagner had played guitar with huge names like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and Kiss, but after his stroke the rock star's whole life changed.

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

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

From 2007 to 2012, the rock star's illness became progressively worse. After a blood clot, Wagner fell by a swimming pool. In 2011, he was diagnosed with NPH, or normal pressure hydrocephalus, which causes a "build-up of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain, according to ABC News. As a consequence, Wagner started to lose control of his bladder and mental state.

Dementia crept in, and the rock star thought his life was over. But physicians at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix came up with, what they felt could be, a partial solution. They surgically placed a shunt in his head to reroute fluid through a tube to an abdomen cavity. The fluid, in small amounts, wil be drained each day.

Wagner said the shunt has changed his life. "I am like a new man almost overnight," he said. "For five years, I couldn't even pick up a guitar -- I didn't have the strength or the coordination."

Though NPH is not identical to senile dementia or Alzheimer's it mimics the symptoms. The condition also affects motor skills like Parkinson's disease does.

NPH is more correctable than Alzheimer's, though, says Dr. Joseph M. Zabramski, the neurosurgeon who supervised Wagner's surgery. "The stroke he suffered usually produces relatively mild deficits, and over time patients are able to resume most normal activities," Zabramski told ABC. "Dick cannot raise his left arm as well as he used to, but his fine motor function in his left hand is excellent. ... Once we had the shunt in place I saw the improvements. ... Gradually, much to my pleasure, the old Dick Wagner returned."

Watch the video below to see the talented rock star play...

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