by Cynthia Oravits
Our story begins and ends with my husband George, father to Olivia and Elyse Oravits.
George was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) in April 2009 at age 65, after seeing his neurologist because we thought was a stroke. All previous symptoms were overlooked because we figured he was just a grumpy, depressed man. He complained about his sight and all I remember is telling him, “make an appointment to see an eye doctor.”
After his diagnosis, I read up on PSP and discovered that he must have had this disease for several years. Others in our family described him as acting “punch drunk” – his personality changed dramatically. He always coughed, and of course, we blamed it on his smoking.
We attended seminars at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where we saw and met others who, at the time, seemed much worse than George did. When we began going, he was able to walk in, sit down, and join in on the discussion with his own opinions.
Within a year he got much worse, and by the summer of 2010, he was in a wheelchair and always seemed to be in a “fog” – I couldn’t tell if he actually understood what was going or not. He began falling all the time and his coughing was constant. His primary care doctor kept prescribing Mucinex and nasal spray. Needless to say, we didn’t realize the coughing was actually him choking on whatever he ate.
George’s trips to the hospital for his falls were the most frustrating. None of the medical staff at the hospital (nurses and doctors) had any idea what was wrong with him, even after I’d explain that it was PSP.
On January 5, 2011, he was admitted to the hospital with a very high fever – I believe it was pneumonia although the hospital staff never said that. He could not swallow at all without choking. A stomach tube was inserted, pulled out (by him) and reinserted, and on January 21, 2011, he passed away – his death certificate indicated “sepsis” as his cause of death.
To this day, I am dismayed to see that the doctors and hospitals are still ignorant to what this disease is and how fast it can take someone. However, we are grateful that it took him so quickly because he had absolutely no quality of life left.
We live today believing he is in a much better place and no longer suffering. He must be or else he would have figured out a way to come back.