Wispy clouds lessened the moon light that guided my walk to the pasture. Upon my arrival at the mouth of the valley, I began calling the cows. It was 4:15 am. Three heifers, new to the herd, decided against taking the narrow pass around the steep hill for home. They held off until the last cow had passed to make their getaway. Just then my father arrived. Instinctively, I left the well-beaten path to circle around the fearful heifers. Tripping on an exposed tree root, I fell silently like a heavy statue onto the soft, uneven ground. My hands could not break free to temper the fall; I had regrettably buried them deeply in my jacket pockets. Wisconsin air bites. Face-down in the dirt, I tried to move, but nothing budged. Before panic had a chance to visit, Dad turned me over, scooped me up, and carried me back to the farm buildings. I tried to stand but could not. By this time, my arms weakly worked. Dad seated me on the foundation ledge of a silo. Somehow, he knew that time would be my friend in reversing the paralysis and ensuing weakness. He instructed me to sit until I regained my strength and then to report for milking. I did. Thankfully, the episode dissipated quickly.
This first event of transient paralysis happened at twelve years of age, but I began experiencing episodic weakness at ten. I finally received a clinical diagnosis of Familial Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis months before my fortieth birthday. My Father’ Swiss immigrant mother had suffered from an unknown chronic progressive disease. No treatment ever helped. Like me, her legs were more affected than her arms and her left side more than her right side. She progressed to quadriplegia by her late 50s.
I thank the Lord for the diagnosing doctor who took a chance and gave me potassium and acetazolamide for the first time. I will never forget that first potassium pill! Until then, nothing helped. I am not episode free, but medications along with a low carbohydrate/keto diet and avoiding triggers—like adrenalin, carbs, cold, and lack of sleep that triggered my first episode—notably reduce the number and duration of episodes. At 52, I can still walk short distances, but need a wheelchair outside the home and creative assistance with stairs. Despite a near lifetime of increasing limitations, God has enabled me to live a full life as a wife (25 years and counting), mother (21 years and counting), nurse (8 years before no longer able), and Bible teacher in Mexico (the last 20 years and counting—as I am able). God has been good to me!
Thank you for reading my periodic paralysis story.
B. Baker in Mexico