By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — Two years ago, as 47-year-old Michael Kennedy was being rushed to Albany Medical Center after suffering from a stroke, his children were at the forefront of his mind.
Almost 30 years before in 1988, Kennedy’s mother had lost her life at Albany Medical Center at age 45 after what doctors had assumed were complications associated with dementia.
Doctors had told Kennedy’s family at the time that what his mother had suffered from was not hereditary but, three decades later in 2015, as Kennedy laid in the hospital undergoing testing, he worried about whether or not he would live to see his daughters graduate from college.
“It just matched up too closely,” Kennedy said about his mother’s death and his stroke.
But after just a day, upon examining data and medical records about Kennedy’s mother that his father had kept for many years, Kennedy’s nurse determined that the condition was hereditary, and that Kennedy’s stroke was a symptom of a rare, often-misdiagnosed disease called Cerebral Autosomal-Dominant Arteriopathy with Subcortical Infarcts and Leukoencephalopathy, or CADASIL..
CADASIL, a hereditary stroke disorder, is often diagnosed Alzheimer’s or Multiple sclerosis, as all three diseases have similar symptoms. Though there are currently studies being conducted to find out more about the workings of the disease, there is currently no cure for CADASIL, and if a parent has the disease, there is a fifty-fifty percent chance that a child will be born with it.
Two years later though, Kennedy, whose left arm and leg are not fully functional anymore, is on the long road to recovery and, despite being forced to in uncertainty, tries to tackle every day with a positive attitude. Kennedy, now 49, could have another stroke, or regress at any day, and sometimes he goes through days where he can’t perform a physical action he could just one day before.
“I just focus on getting through everyday dealing with that,” he said. Though he admitted that it can be “terrifying” to see what other people with the disease have gone through, he does his best to eat healthy, exercise daily, and try to raise awareness for a disease that very few people know about. As part of his outreach and education effort, Kennedy is holding a fundraiser on June 25 a 4 p.m at the ValleyCats game
Helping Kennedy through the uncertainty is his family. His daughters haven’t been tested for the disease yet, but he focuses on enjoying time with his wife, daughters and now his grandchildren. Kennedy works with his wife Michelle at the Pink Dog Parlor in Clifton Park, which she has owned for 12 years.
Sometimes, Kennedy said, when his illness causes him to do things like bump into walls, he and his family make jokes about his brain injury.
“We can have a good sense of humor about it,” he said. “The positive is, that I’ve battled through this and bounced back the best that I can, because you really don’t have any idea how it’s going to be.Be proud of whatever that is. That task you can still do. Just take the victories when they come.”