Rock guitarist Dick Wagner has spent his life playing lead guitar with classic rockers such as Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, and Kiss to name a few, but on Wednesday, Jan 16. according to Fox8.com reports the rocker opened up publicly about how his battle with dementia nearly cost him his career, and more importantly his life.
Dick Wagner revealed that after he had suffered a stroke and a heart attack back in 2007 he had believed that his career was officially over.
"I woke up from a coma after two weeks with a paralyzed left arm," said Wagner, now 70 and living in Arizona. "My profession as a guitarist, I thought was over."
But Wagner's own personal horror show had just begun. He worked hard at rehabilitation, but new symptoms began to appear: mental fuzziness and an odd gait.
"I couldn't turn to the left as I walked, only to the right, and I would do a spiral and fall," he said. "I fell completely flat on my face in the driveway on the concrete. I didn't know what had happened to me."
Soon another episode leading to a fall by his swimming pool and precipitated a blood clot, and surgery. Wagner stated that he was feeling very grim about recovery and that he felt he would never perform again.
In 2011, Dick Wagner 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.
At one last attempt Dick Wagner checked into Phoenix's Barrow Neurological Institute where doctors surgically placed a shunt in his head to redirect the fluid through a tube under the skin to his abdominal cavity. A small amount is drained every day for the rest of his life.
"I am like a new man almost overnight," he said. "For five years, I couldn't even pick up a guitar. I didn't have the strength or the coordination."
NPH is a condition that typically strikes after the age of 55 and often mimics the dementia of Alzheimer's and the impaired motor skills of Parkinson's disease.
In Wagner's case, it wasn't the initial stroke that deprived him of his musical ability, but NPH, which took away his coordination and timing.
"I am getting my timing back almost back to normal," he said. "It made a huge complete turnaround of my life."
Dick Wagner is best known for penning the hit 'Only Women Bleed'. It was written during the days of The Frost, but unhappy with his lyrics, Wagner decided not to release it. Once his collaboration with Alice Cooper started, Dick played the song for him, and Alice penned new lyrics shortly after and recorded it for his album Welcome to My Nightmare. Artists from Tina Turner, Etta James, Guns N' Roses, Lita Ford, and Tori Amos, have covered this song.
Last year Dick Wagner wrote his tell all autobiography,In 2012, Wagner’s memoirs," Not Only Women Bleed Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician" was released with a tremendous acclaim. The book spent more than two weeks at #1 on Amazon.com’s Hot New Releases in Biographies & Memoirs of Entertainers.
Dick Wagner is taking his rock dementia one day at a time and is currently looking into working with Detroit band Shock Wave, who he feels is much more talented than the group's members young age would suggest.
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