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Roger Hollenbaugh of Bandera suffers from Stiff-Person's Syndrome, a puzzling disease with no known cure and an uncertain long-term prognosis despite undeniably real symptoms. Photo by Jessica Hawley

Bandera resident learns to live with rare, debilitating disease

By Jessica Hawley - Staff Writer

Only a few years ago, Roger Hollenbaugh drove an 18-wheeler all over the United States and beyond the country's border into Canada. He enjoyed taking photographs of the vast and varied landscapes to capture the visions he rolled by at 70 mph.

"People thought I was nuts that I would take pictures through the windshield," he said.

Today, the 37-year-old carefully thumbs through those pictures with rigid fingers, his trucking days a memory. In September 2001, after suffering for more than two years from symptoms that doctors labeled psychosomatic, Hollenbaugh was diagnosed by Dr. Michael Winkelmann, in Jackson, Miss., with stiff-person's syndrome, an extremely rare and, as of yet, scarcely studied neurological disease.

The ophistonic posture in SPS   Above the classic SPS Lordotic posture. In ophistonic the body is arched upwards and in Lordotic the person walks in a hyperextended fashion. Loud noises trigger spasms and patients can hear distant dog barking and cat noises at night due to sensitivity to loud noises.

Although the cause of stiff-person's syndrome is unknown in most cases, Hollenbaugh believes his case developed while he was receiving treatment for a migraine headache in a Kerrville hospital on July 10, 1998.

He stated that the hospital staff did not lock the rails on the cardiac bed they placed him on and it collapsed. He said that he hit his spine on the base and split open the back of his head on a cabinet he flipped onto.

According to Hollenbaugh's account, doctors shaved the back of his head, stapled the laceration closed and sent him home the same day.

"They didn't give him any antibiotics or even clean the wound," said Hollenbaugh's aunt, with whom he lives in Bandera.


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