Photography by Kendal
In a perfect world we would all be healthy and free from life's little inconveniences. For Photographer Kendal Bushnell,
Dystonia is believed to affect an estimated 300,000 persons in North America, and is the third most common movement disorder after Parkinson's disease and Tremor. It's not fatal (although some forms can be debilitating), not a psychiatric disorder, nor does it affect intellect.
Kendal's diagnosis of focal cervical dystonia (or spasmodic torticollis), which causes involuntary contractions of the neck muscles, was made nearly ten years ago. The tremors twist her head to the side, back or forward-except during sleep, when symptoms disappear. The brain compensates to the involuntary movements, therefore not interfering with sight or coordination.
Dystonia can affect one specific part of the body, all, or most of the body. Heredity can be a factor, or a brain injury or illness can cause it. Certain infections and drug reactions can cause dystonic symptoms.
A complex disorder, dystonia progresses at different rates, has many causes and a variety of symptoms. It can affect the eyelids, vocal cords, and face and neck muscles.
Although there is no cure for dystonia, there are some treatments. Oral medications, botulinum toxin injections, and surgery (as a last resort) are available. Complementary therapies such as physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques are useful, however, must be personalized to a dystonia-affected patient.
Because each individual's case of dystonia is different, treatment is often a long process, incorporating experimentation with different oral medications and alternative processes.
While treatments for dystonia only address the surface symptoms, genetic research has shown some promising breakthroughs. Current research is focusing on the role torsinA plays in the development of dystonia, as well as providing information for developing treatments at the biochemical source.
There are those with dystonia who cannot lead a somewhat “normal” life. Kendal is grateful to have the support of family, friends, and clients who look past her appearance to find a vital and capable human being.
To learn more about the dystonia, information is available through the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation at 312-755-0198, or through their web site at www.dystonia-foundation.org. Additional information can be found at www.wemove.org.