For the past five years, Emilee Williams (now 26 years old), has been struggling with Wilson’s Disease. She graduated with honors from Rockhurst University in just three years. She received a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science and a minor in Spanish. She had just started her first semester of graduate school at Rockhurst University for her doctorate degree in physical therapy when she was forced to withdraw because her symptoms became too severe to continue her coursework.
Emilee’s symptoms started approximately three years prior to her diagnosis and included swelling of her legs and feet, mood and behavioural changes, a tremor in her right hand, muscle cramps, dystonia, slurred speech, and balance loss. Emilee and her family were determined to find the answers to her symptoms. Every doctor she went to said she suffered from anxiety and depression, however, none of the different antidepressants she was prescribed helped her symptoms. Emilee and her family kept looking for answers and asked for a neurologic workup several times during the year prior to her diagnosis.
The final push for a neurologic workup came from her very own graduate school professors. Emilee’s doctor finally ordered an MRI, which revealed the “panda face,” and put her on the path to a correct diagnosis. The MRI’s “panda face,” lab results, and the presence of Kayser-Fleischer Rings in her eyes solidified the diagnosis.
Just one month after Emilee’s correct diagnosis, she was hospitalized, where she spent 12 gruelling weeks on the rehab floor because she could no longer swallow, due to the neurologic damage in her brain. After having a feeding tube placement surgery, she was left with only a single voluntary movement – the ability to blink her eyes; blinking became her means of communication. Her life on the rehab floor and the next five years consisted of lots of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.
Emilee’s hard-work and fierce determination, accompanied by the support of her family, friends, caregivers and therapists, has allowed her to do things most doctors said she never would again.
Emilee’s goal in life is to bring awareness to Wilson’s Disease, to prevent others from having to go through what she did.