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From: TSS ()
Subject: Mystery illness devastating
Date: May 4, 2005 at 8:27 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Mystery illness devastating
Date: Wed, 4 May 2005 10:17:15 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Mystery illness devastating

By BRYAN CORBIN Courier & Press staff writer (812) 464-7449 or
May 1, 2005

The horror began when Ruth Ann Wallace couldn't remember her own phone

Within weeks, the 62-year-old Lynnville, Ind., woman couldn't remember
how to brush her teeth. Within two months, Wallace was dead.

A mysterious disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD, which
riddles the brain with tiny holes like a sponge, killed Wallace last
year. It's one of the human versions of mad cow disease, though unlike
the strain that struck Britain a decade ago, it's not believed to be
spread by eating beef.

But Wallace's daughter, Michelle Bippus of Evansville, still is haunted
by the promise she made to her mother when doctors and the family
incorrectly believed Wallace's condition might be the result of a
stroke, a promise that she would help her mother recover. Bippus didn't
know at the time that her mother had CJD, which is incurable and ends in
a hideous, painful death.

Bippus' grief is magnified by public misunderstanding of the rare
disease. When she recounts how her mother died last May, people often
are dismissive and don't believe it's a human counterpart to mad cow

Confusion over terminology likely is to blame. The "classical" form of
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare neurological disorder that afflicts
people older than 50, killing them within months. A new variant strain,
called nvCJD, has been linked in Britain to eating tainted beef from
cattle infected with mad cow disease.

Striking much younger victims, nvCJD takes longer to kill, but the
disease's havoc is much the same: Holes form in the brain, turning it
spongelike, causing victims to lose their mental faculties and
eventually slippinginto a coma and dying. The United States has had only
one confirmed patient with nvCJD.

Michelle Bippus, 34, realized something was wrong in March 2004 when her
usually independent and stoic mother, Ruth "Bootie" Wallace, became
afraid and tearful because of sudden memory lapses, such as forgetting
her own phone number. Doctors initially suspected a stroke but tests
were inconclusive, Bippus said. After a few days in the hospital,
Wallace was released, but she declined rapidly. With slurred speech and
difficulty walking, she stopped eating. She couldn't remember how to use
a toothbrush. She would flinch when touched. "She looked scared and she
looked lost," Bippus said. When a spinal tap and other tests ruled out
other causes, Wallace's neurologist gave her family grim news: It was
consistent with CJD. "This is what she has, and you basically have to
sit back and watch her die," Bippus said.

Having rapidly lost the ability to communicate and slipping into a
comalike state, Wallace spent her final days in the VNA Hospice Center
in Evansville. Bippus said she still can hear the awful sound of her
dying mother's slow, raspy final breaths. Wallace died May 13, 2004. The
physician signed the death certificate listing CJD as the cause of
death. No autopsy was requested or required because it is was a natural
disease, not a suspicious death that would involve the coroner's office.
Dr. Robert Teclaw, the state epidemiologist, said there's not yet a
practical way of confirming CJD in a living patient; physicians diagnose
it through eliminating other causes. The only way to confirm CJD is
after death, through autopsy, he said. Even if confronted with a case of
suspected CJD, the Vanderburgh County coroner's office would not perform
the autopsy, because of the risk of infection, Chief Deputy Coroner
Annie Groves said. For an autopsy, the body likely would be sent to the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, she said.
Since cremation will not kill CJD, "what they recommend is no autopsy
and direct burial," Groves said.

Groves added that CJD's symptoms are similar to Alzheimer's disease or
dementia, though patients decline more rapidly. "What we need to realize
is this may be a real under-diagnosed disease, because it presents
itself the same as dementia patients and Alzheimer's patients," Groves
said. "There might be more around than are diagnosed."

Ruth Wallace's premature death robbed her family of a wife, mother,
stepparent, grandmother and great-grandmother. Retired from Hansen
Manufacturing in Princeton, Ind., Wallace loved to plant flowers, her
daughter Michelle Bippus said. Before becoming ill, Wallace scoured flea
markets for wreaths, framed art and nicknacks to decorate Bippus' walls.

Before she learned that Wallace suffered from CJD and not a stroke,
Bippus had assured her that she would recover: "I'm not going to let you
fail," the daughter promised her mother. Now Bippus feels guilty, even
though she could have done nothing to prevent her mother's death. "And I
can't get over that," Bippus said, breaking into tears, "even though she
died of something totally different from what I made that promise to. I
promised her she would be OK ... and I didn't keep that promise. And
that's hard."

Wallace had no family history of CJD and never had corneal transplants,
two possible risk factors. She never visited England (and missed its
mad-cow beef scare of the 1990s) and didn't eat beef brains, Bippus
said, which would seem to rule out nvCJD. From her own Web research,
Bippus now suspects her mother falls into the "sporadic" category, in
which CJD strikes about one person in 1 million for reasons not fully

"Nobody can tell me exactly how she got it, so I can't become paranoid
and change everything in our lives," she said. Bippus didn't give up
beef, for example, nor does she forbid her son Tyler, 8, from eating it.
"How do you explain to an 8-year-old, 'You can't have a hamburger?'"

Bippus thinks of her mother daily. Some news will happen and she will
start to call her mother - then realize she's gone.

By discussing her mother's illness, Bippus hopes other families will be
aware of CJD and that the medical community won't overlook the
possibility, despite the rarity of the disorder. "This is my way of
letting her live on," Bippus said. "I just want doctors to be aware that
this is here.",1626,ECP_734_3743613,00.html+Mystery+illness+devastating&hl=en&lr=&strip=1

> No autopsy was requested or required because it is was a natural
> disease, not a suspicious death that would involve the coroner's
> office. Dr. Robert Teclaw, the state epidemiologist, said

> Since cremation will not kill CJD, "what they recommend is no autopsy
> and direct burial," Groves said.

and the stupidity continues to spread, along with the disease...


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