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Austintown doctor with ALS hopes her story could spark change

Local News

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A family physician with deep roots in Youngstown is going public for the first time about how she and her family are dealing with ALS.

Dr. Dinah Fedyna split her time between family practice medicine and teaching ever since graduating from med school in the early ’80s.

In September of last year, though, she had to give it all up after the disease known as ALS became too much to deal with.

Fedyna still gets around well — ALS hasn’t affected her mobility yet — but she can’t talk anymore. She communicates by writing on a computerized pad.

In preparation for the interview, Fedyna wrote up a statment and her daughter, Natalia, read it.

Fedyna said about 20% of all ALS patients first feel the symptoms in the throat area. That’s where she first noticed a change in the spring of 2017.

“She first noticed it when she had some issues swallowing, and in the year or two prior to that sometimes you could tell when we were eating that something wasn’t working correctly,” said Joe Novicky, Fedyna’s husband.

Being a doctor, she feared it could be ALS from the start. By July of 2018, the diagnosis had been confirmed.

Novicky said communication can sometimes be frustrating.

“You know, even though her handwriting’s good, to interpret short messages and understand exactly what she wants to do is challenging,” he said.

“In some ways, I think it has been harder on my daughter and husband, and I am so grateful to them and am proud of how they have handled it,” Fedyna said. 

There is no cure for ALS. The inevitability of what’s to come has been discussed.

“We’ve made plans for several things but in the last six months — other than just dealing with the day-to-day survival of getting enough nutrition and hydration in her body, she has a feeding tube — we really have been blessed that she’s remained basically stable health and just had to adjust how we do things,” said Novicky.

Fedyna was valedictorian of the Chaney High School class of 1976.

She can also trace her roots in Youngstown over a hundred years back. Her grandparents came from Ukraine and worked in the mills. Her father was a detective with the Youngstown Police Department.

Fedyna agreed to talk with us about her diagnosis because she said education is the key to solving things, and it’s important for people to understand and support research into ALS. She’s hoping her story will do that.

After Fedyna resigned from Mercy Health and the Northeast Medical University, her friends and colleagues started a scholarship in her name. It will go to a third year NeoMed student studying primary care. 

The first scholarship will be awarded next month. 

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