A man who once played guitar with famous bands like Alice Cooper and Aerosmith is now drawing attention for a different reason after struggling for years with what doctors believed was dementia.
It may have been hard to recognize Dick Wagner a few years back. After a living through a notable past, Wagner came down with what doctors at first believed was dementia.
A well-known guitar player through the 1970s, Wagner had collaborated with bands like Kiss and Aerosmith. He played guitar or written songs for famous musicians that include Etta James, Rod Stewart, and Hall & Oates. He also wrote the guitar part for "Welcome to My Nightmare," which Alice Cooper later added lyrics to.
But after suffering a stroke and heart attack in 2007, Wagner couldn't even make a left turn.
"I couldn't turn to the left as I walked, only to the right, and I would do a spiral and fall," he said on Good Morning America. "I fell completely flat on my face in the driveway on the concrete. I didn't know what had happened to me."
Wagner, now 70, was also unable to pick up his guitar, let alone play any new songs. He believed his career to be over. Doctors suspected that he was suffering from dementia. In 2011, Wagner got some of the best news of his life.
He was diagnosed with NPH, "or normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition caused by a build-up of spinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain, which puts pressure on nerves that control the legs, bladder and cognitive function," ABC reported.
Doctors were able to perform a simple operation on Wagner, which redirected the fluid in his brain. It now has to be emptied on a regular basis, but the procedure has allowed Wagner to return to his old self.
"I am like a new man almost overnight," he told GMA.
Now Wagner's illness is bringing attention to others who may be suffering from the same thing.
Dr. Joseph M. Zabramski, the neurosurgeon who operated on Wagner, told GMA "an estimated 5 percent of all dementia patients actually have NPH." And unlike the other diseases, NPH can be corrected.