Managing Post-Polio Syndrome
After having to give up cycling and his business, Rick Van Der Linden says the ventilator he uses to alleviate his upper body fatigue gave him his life back.
Rick Van Der Linden has got his daily routine down pat. He’s up by 5 a.m. answering e-mails for about an hour, before sitting down to breakfast, then heading out by 9 a.m. to do a little work around his 10-acre ranch in Hemet, California.
By the time noon rolls around, it’s back inside for his much-needed two-hour nap with the assistance of his bi-level S/T ventilator. Like many patients who learn to manage their post-polio syndrome (PPS), Van Der Linden knows his health and strength depend on getting enough rest. In total, he will sleep while on the ventilator for up to 10 hours per day – giving his upper body muscles weakened from polio a break.
“This machine gave me my life back,” he says. “I know that if it wasn’t for my ventilator, I’d be dead by now.” Diagnosed with polio when he was 5 years old, Van Der Linden says he was paralyzed for three months, but recovered fairly well soon after he returned home. For most of his life, he dealt with some upper body weakness, which he learned to hide.
But by 1993 at age 46, a cycling accident and related work-related stress brought on symptoms of post-polio syndrome – fatigue, muscle weakness and spasms. Today, he publishes a newsletter focused on helping others with PPS. Although he can no longer hit the road for 100-mile bike rides like he used to, Van Der Linden says he’s learned to tweak his ventilator’s settings just right — giving him the strength he needs to get out and play with his country/blue grass band for early evening gigs so he can be in bed by 9 p.m.