Omaha doctor's rare case of Ataxia

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- A Methodist Health doctor is battling Ataxia. She was diagnosed when she was just 21, but her symptoms remained dormant for 20 years.

"It's scary, even though you know it's going to happen. It's still scary," said Dr. Linda Snider, a Diagnostic Radiologist.

Dr. Snider's fight with Ataxia began 34-years-ago. Her father was diagnosed with the disease when she was just 10-years-old.

"He was in a wheelchair by the time I was in college," she said.

There are many types of Ataxia, but her fathers was genetic.

"I had a 50/50 chance of inheriting it, which I did," Dr. Snider said.

She was 21-years-old. She was just getting ready to start medical school at Creighton when she tested positive. At this point, she made some very tough life decisions.

"Deciding you're not having kids at 21 is hard..." she said through tears.

Dr. Snider made other life decisions based on her diagnosis. In part, she chose her career as a Radiologist because she was told she would be in a wheelchair by the age of 40.

But she is not; Her symptoms remained dormant for close to 20 years.

"A lot of my free time now is spent trying to keep myself healthy," she said.

The main symptoms of Ataxia: poor coordination, slurred speech, unsteady gait.

Dr. Snider demonstrated for our cameras how tough it is to simply walk a straight line. But once again, she is a fighter. She got a vest called Balance Wear.It has weights inside of it that help her walk that straight line.

"With the vest on I'm not normal but much better," she said.

The difference is remarkable. She showed us how much better she could walk by wearing the vest.

It is one reason why Dr. Snider created the Nebraska Ataxia organization. She is holding a fundraiser later this month to help provide vests, wheelchairs, and other forms of medical therapy for those dealing with the disease.

As far as her life, Dr. Snider still scuba dives. She also loves to travel. She told WOWT 6 News, she pics countries she has to walk in a lot because she knows one day she will be in a wheelchair.

But for now, healthy eating, exercise, and massage therapy have helped her make remarkable progress.

"I'm actually better now than I was 6 months ago. I decided about 6-8 months ago to take control of my health," she said.

Her zest for life is shared by her boyfriend, Mark Sidwell. They met when Linda was just 12.

"I'm the happiest that I've ever been and madly in love and it's wonderful to have somebody support you," she said.

The fundraiser for Nebraska Ataxia organization is coming up September 24th.