Bradley McDowell used to live a pretty normal life. He also did a lot of different sports like golfing, skiing, hiking, and bowling. In his thirties, he was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia.
My name is Brad Mcdowell. I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia 25 years ago and I’ve had this condition my whole life. I know this disease is progressive. Before, I was living a pretty normal life. I was driving, working, and doing sports. However, my mom did always know that something was up, I was always walking a bit slower.
When I went to see a doctor, they didn’t know what to do with it. I was only diagnosed with Ataxia after I saw a neuropathologist for my double vision and oscillopsia and was then prescribed a prism for my glasses. After that, I saw a neurologist. He confirmed that I have FA. There is no family history but there is a skipped generation on my dad’s side. I’ve had this condition my whole life and I’m now 59 years young. I completed high school with some difficulty as no doctor knew what was wrong until I was diagnosed in my late thirties. I have lived in British Columbia all my life. It’s hard to believe I was a skier and a golfer. I did hiking and bowling. I went to a trade school and took bakers and cook training.
The vision problems affect my balance and coordination and my legs don’t work going upstairs without a railing. Nowadays, I am easily tired and need to rest my legs when walking with my walker. I now have a power wheelchair for longer distances. I can still make prepared meals at my own apartment. I do need a house cleaner. Doing a chair exercise is very beneficial to help keep me fit, and I am able to swim and enjoy the pool at my complex. I used to be easily irritated and have trouble multitasking, but I learned to be more patient.
A typical day starts as I roll out of bed with my walker close to me so I can get to the kitchen and prepare an easy breakfast. I take my meds for anxiety. This is all been done carefully not to get dizzy as I have double vision. Aspects of dressing can be a struggle putting on socks I do have a sock sleeve. I do not change my bed without help and it is difficult doing any laundry. In the bathroom, I have grab bars and a walk-in shower. I need a house cleaner as household chores are extremely difficult to manage.
Activities I do are a 20 min chair exercise which really helps and I do stretches to help with my posture I will get out for a walk with my walker on most days I also swim once or twice a week which is very beneficial. A few things I do to keep positive are: take a deep breath, don’t sweat the small stuff, and BFD Big Firetruck Deal. This month, I also just finished doing a fitness challenge, for which I did 45 hours of active fitness. Th
Music is my success. I am a member of the Hazlemere Heritage Fiddlers. I have been playing fiddle since I was a little boy in grade 2. I play old-time music and practice weekly. I am also creative I do hand-made cards and hand-spun hooked rugs.
My point of advice to anyone dealing with Ataxia would be that things are always changing and developing in the world of pharmaceuticals. These can help with most cases of Ataxia, so keep that in mind.
Thank you Bradley for sharing your story and great advice!
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