To meet Mauricio Sanchez, a fit, poised and engaged man of 39, the struggles
of the last decade might not easily surface from behind his brilliant
eyes. Though confident and resilient, even he can't help but get emotional
when recounting a life-changing development that would test his body,
mind and spirit for years to come.
At the age of 29, Sanchez began experiencing problems with his right hand,
everything from brushing his teeth to taking his wallet out of his pocket.
Eventually, he also developed tremors, cramping, and soon dragged his
right foot behind him with a limp. He went to his primary doctor, who
told him to try a glass of wine to relieve the stress that was likely
causing the symptoms. An office assistant in the Radiation and Oncology
department at Torrance Memorial, he soon found these issues worsening
and getting in the way of his regular tasks of writing and typing. All
tests to this point had come back negative. When his primary doctor finally
saw the tremor in his right foot, she sent him to a neurologist in San Pedro.
"I had this feeling inside of me that it was Parkinson's,"
says Sanchez of the time leading up to that visit. While the doctor suspected
he had Parkinson's disease, he dropped a second bombshell, the likelihood
he also suffered from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder causing
his muscle contractions and pain. He was not even 30.
On the recommendation of his doctor, Mauricio scheduled a F-Dopa/PET scan.
Denied by his HMO the authorization to have the scan based on his previous
tests results, he finally switched to a PPO at the first opportunity and
scheduled the scan. His results revealed a bilateral decrease of dopamine
of the brain, more on the left side than right.
"When the doctor gave my wife and me the news, I felt like my life
was ending," he shares. When the couple drove to Torrance Memorial
and told his director and supervisor, they immediately offered Mauricio
their compassion and support. "I am lucky to work in a place that
offers such support to their employees."
With the support of his wife, two kids and co-workers and friends, Sanchez
eventually began a new regiment of drugs that, in his words, "make
him a totally different person." He works out regularly with weights
and on the treadmill, walks with his two dogs Dash and Dolly and continues
to work at Torrance Memorial. He recently started a support group at the
medical center for South Bay residents with young onset Parkinson's
and welcomes guest speakers and family members to the sessions.
"I owe them my life," Sanchez says of Torrance Memorial. "Now
they've given me the opportunity to start the support group."
He remember when the calls started coming from other patients with Parkinson's,
many he had never even met, who wanted someone to share their experiences
with. "There are a lot of young people in the South Bay who have
gone through what I have or even worse," he says. "That made
me feel I was not alone."
As the drugs he currently takes are unpredictable and require more dosage
as time progresses, Mauricio will undergo DBS implant surgery at the end
of the year, a procedure that will leave him a neurostimulator to help
relieve symptoms. "I'm a fighter," he says. "I'm
like the Energizer Bunny. I just keep going."
View Torrance Memorial support groups