Chuck Gagnon asks his daughter on her wedding day, may I have this dance?
It started small for Chuck Gagnon — a couple of bad days marked by a sort of physical clumsiness combined with trouble thinking straight. “I felt like I had lead feet and my thoughts were a bit confused,” says Chuck, 66, a retired business consultant and colonel in the Air Force. “At the time, I wrote it off as part of ‘just getting older;’ it was even a bit of a joke at first.” But what he was experiencing in 2016 was no laughing matter. As his symptoms worsened and after a series of visits to physicians and specialists, Chuck was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a serious medical condition characterized by an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid, causing ventricles in the brain to become enlarged.
By now he was suffering debilitating headaches and was nearly immobile. Then, in 2017, he developed a subdural hematoma, a severe complication sometimes associated with NPH.
Chuck was rushed into emergency surgery to remove the blot clot. A shunt was inserted to relieve pressure on his brain. But even after a great deal of rehab and recovery, Chuck’s condition did not improve. He now also suffered from chest pains and hypertension.
The core problem remained: There was continuing fluid buildup in his brain. In a second surgery, his condition was stabilized. At his insistence, Chuck was transferred to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital (IMVH) to work with the Inova Rehabilitation Center team. “My wife and I had done our research and knew we wanted to come to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital,” he says, “because they offer the best in neuro rehab.” He made great progress at first, but then his condition plateaued.
There was still a problem with the shunt; it just wasn’t doing its job right. He began to lose ground again, also losing 40 pounds in the process. Finally, a third surgery correctly adjusted the shunt and started Chuck on his true road to recovery. “Based on my earlier great experience with the team, I knew my rehab journey should continue at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital,” he says.
He returned to the hospital in September 2017 to begin his therapy. On his first day, his therapist Erica Kramer asked him about his goals. Chuck mentioned that he had one goal above all else: to dance at his daughter’s wedding in January 2018. “This was not only my motivation, it became my team’s motivation,” he says. Along the way, Chuck’s treatment plan was individualized to not only effectively treat his condition, but also to specifically prepare him for that first dance and to be able to make a toast on that special day.
“The Inova Rehabilitation Center team and I were true partners every step of the way,” he notes. “It was never a cookie-cutter approach. Every day I knew they were there for me. They pushed me and encouraged me and motivated me. It was about healing me and getting me whatever I needed to succeed.”
Because of his own tenaciousness and through the rehab team’s expertise, Chuck was fully able to enjoy one of the most important days in any father’s life: his daughter’s wedding day.