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Tourette syndrome: One man's story

6:22 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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Myles Walker

(WZZM/WBIR) - Myles Walker was remembers the first time he learned about Tourette syndrome.

He was nine years old, playing outside like most other children his age. However, Walker couldn't seem to control his body and sounds like other children could.

"Funny noises, and little jerks, and I just kept doing them periodically and was like, what is this? Something is wrong. We need to see a doctor," he recalls.

A doctor confirmed the diagnosis: Tourette syndrome. Most common in children, TS is a hyper-kinetic disorder which causes several uncontrollable motor and vocal tics in a person's body.

"They happen every day. They tend to wax and wane. They're usually worse when people are under stress," explains Dr. Randall Trudell, of UT Medical Center.

"It's abnormal, it's a brain malfunction. I think maybe the importance is identifying this is something out of their control," he said.

As an adult neurologist, Trudell doesn't see many patients with TS, but says it's not uncommon for pediatric specialists.

The CDC reports three out of every 1,000 children ages six through 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with the condition.

"Usually people start noticing it in elementary school," Trudell said. "Then it will gradually get worse. Then, late teens, sometimes middle teens it will sort of pan out and go away, and sometimes it just goes away and that's the end of it."

Walker did not easily accept his own diagnosis, and the time spent in and out of a doctor's office.

"I had an attitude, I would cuss people out, talk crazy," he remembers. "I was just, you know, infuriated. I was living in fear, had mad insecurities."

Now 31 years old, he represents a significantly smaller pool of people living with TS into adulthood. Living with his condition hasn't been easy. It affects his ability to find an employer willing to hire him, his opportunity for relationships and dating, and his day-to-day struggle to control his tics in public.

"I've learned to build up a sense [of] dealing with it. This is me, this is who I am, this is what I have to deal with," he said.

"I live just like anybody else. I put my pants on just like you, eat just like you, walk, talk, dress, you know, I have Tourette's. I deal with a lot more."

Walker keeps an active social life, volunteering at Boys and Girls Club, Vol Market and popping into several friends' businesses around Knox County.

Despite an often-awkward first introduction to strangers, he tries to educate anyone willing to listen about his condition.

He is also a published author, having written a book titled, "Me and My Tourette's: Motivated by God," in which he details the importance of his faith in accepting his diagnosis.

"There's always somebody different, somebody's got a disability, somebody's got a challenge in life. There's no such thing as 'normal,'" he says. "Just got to make the best, and do what we do."

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