January 31, 2017

My Fall, Hip, Operation, Rehab, and Schedule

With my friend David. His shirt reads “LIFEGUARD,” which -- 
as far as this narrative is concerned -- is just about right.

It’s been an interesting week and a half. Here’s a recap of events:

Friday, January 20
In the morning, I fell hard in my upstairs home office. I crawled over to get my cell phone on the desk and called my friend David, who arrived quickly. He wanted to call 911 and get me to Sibley Hospital’s emergency room, but I wanted to stay at home.

That night, wondering how I’d get into bed and manage to sleep, I finally relented and asked David to call 911. We arrived at the emergency room around 11pm. The medical team there decided to wait until morning to complete the necessary tests.

Saturday, January 21
No surprise -- the tests revealed a fractured hip. There were other issues, too. It looked like surgery would happen the next day.

Sunday, January 22
The schedule of surgeries was already full, and I was a late addition. By 3pm, the hospital team advised me that there was no way they could operate that day. The surgery would happen tomorrow.

Monday, January 23
It was another busy day of surgeries at Sibley. I was relieved when the pre-op unit team began the prep process around 3pm. I didn’t want to wait yet another day.

January 24, 2017

A Brand New Hip

Yesterday's hip replacement went just fine. Here I'm enjoying some homemade coconut cookies from Nancy, one of my terrific nurses. Now, bring on the rehab, and get me HOME!

January 22, 2017

A Fractured Hip

Here I am in Sibley Hospital's emergency room, after falling and fracturing my right hip on Friday. Surgery tomorrow. Then I'll be here in rehab for up to two weeks. I'll keep you posted on the recovery.

January 20, 2017


It's 9:13am, January 20, 2017. Inauguration Day.

Like many others who have lived in Washington for a long time, I remember being a bit player in past events.

I just watched President-elect Trump being greeted at the doors of St. John's Church by its rector, the Rev. Luis Leon. Every President-elect traditionally attends a brief prayer service at St. John's -- "the church of the presidents," directly across Lafayette Square from the While House -- on Inauguration Day morning.

I was in the balcony at St. John's for the prayer service on the morning of Ronald Reagan's first inauguration. I had mixed feelings when I looked down at the congregation and spotted Frank Sinatra and other movie stars.

I also remember being on the vestry of St. John's when we chose Luis Leon as the church's new rector, replacing my treasured friend John Harper who had retired from that position after 30 years.

Enough "me stuff." What I need to do today is "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative." So here are a few favorite videos from the Obama years.

The Obama's Were the Greatest First Family of Modern Times.

President Obama Is a World-Class Writer and Speaker, but He also Has a Nice Voice. 

But When it Comes to Singing, Michelle Could Win any "American Idol" Competition.

January 19, 2017

Diagnosing my Parkinson's: Then and Now

A neurologist diagnosed my Parkinson's disease (PD) in the fall of 2009. I should have been diagnosed several years earlier, but I didn't -- and still don't -- have the typical tremor that makes PD easier to detect. About 35% of all Parkinsonians don't have the tremor.

My former internist gave me a physical every year. During our 2005 session, I mentioned I had lost my sense of smell. He said, “Don’t worry about it. That happens to a lot of people as they age.”

In 2006, I told him my kids thought my right arm had an unusually limited swing when I walked. Again, he said the symptom was common. No big deal.

In 2007, I told him I was having balance issues, and he referred me to a physical therapist. This PT was very good, and I met with him every week for nearly a year. He kept asking, "Have you told Dr. X about your right arm not swinging?"

In retrospect, I realize he had diagnosed my PD but didn't feel comfortable questioning my doctor.

My kids were becoming increasingly concerned and recommended I see a neurologist. 

The neurologist told me that no specific test exists to diagnose PD. But he did order some tests -- including blood tests -- to rule out other disorders that might be causing my symptoms. He also conducted a thorough neurological and physical examination.

Finally, he gave me a trial prescription for levodopa-carbidopa, the gold-standard medicine for PD. After a week or two on this med, I noticed that several symptoms had improved. Bingo! I had Parkinson's.

January 17, 2017

Where Did the Story of My Parkinson’s Begin? Probably in this House

The photo shows 215-217 Prospect Street in Ithaca, NY, where I lived from age 7 to 25. We rented the right half of the house. The Slattery family owned the house and lived in the other half.

The house sits on Ithaca's South Hill. My dad walked up that hill to his job at the Morse Chain Company plant.

My brother Roger still lives in Ithaca. After visiting him several years ago, I realized I didn’t really know what the company did. Something about auto chains, I thought. So I Googled it.

To my surprise, most of the hits described a longtime controversy: a chemical the company used to clean greasy auto chains had apparently contaminated much of the soil on South Hill. Residents have brought class-action lawsuits, claiming that serious health problems have resulted from that contamination.

The toxic chemical has been identified as trichloroethylene (TCE), typically used to decrease metal parts. Googling TCE, I found a 2011 study that made a startling conclusion: people exposed to TCE are six times more likely to develop Parkinson's.

Although the research focused on workplace exposure to TCE (and perchloroethylene, or PERC, another de-greasing agent), most people experience low-level exposure to these solvents. Millions of pounds of the chemicals – which can be detected as contaminants in blood, breast milk, water and food -- are released into the environment each year. 

January 14, 2017

The Heimlich Maneuver and Parkinson’s

Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, the thoracic surgeon best known for developing and popularizing his lifesaving anti-choking technique the "Heimlich maneuver," died last month at age 96.

I hadn’t thought about the Heimlich maneuver in years. But it might just save my life one day, since I'm now struggling with swallowing problems stemming from my Parkinson's disease (PD).

It seems like I've known about the Heimlich maneuver forever. But I wasn't sure any longer how it worked, and wanted to check if friends who might be around -- should I have a choking incident – knew how to perform the maneuver. 

Older friends were like me; they knew about it but weren't certain how to perform it. Younger friends had never heard of it.

So I’ll be sending this video to my nearest and dearest:

January 13, 2017

Parkinson's 101

I regret starting the new year of blog posts with one about politics. Last year, I did a pretty good job keeping the blog free of political issues, though I slipped a couple times.

This blog concerns aging and Parkinson's and me. That's how it began… and where the focus will remain.

Today's post is a good example. My daughter sent me the link to the January 9, 2017 edition of the "Michigan Health" newsletter, produced by the University of Michigan. Its author is Kara J. Wynant, M.D., a movement disorder specialist.

The article offers an excellent primer on Parkinson’s and its non-motor symptoms. I’ve been dealing with a variety of these symptoms, and found the summaries very helpful.

The article also is a reminder for me that "concise is nice."  I wonder if I could get that to pop up every time I start a blog post.

Here's the article. Recommended reading.

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Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive illness, meaning over time people with Parkinson’s will develop new symptoms.

That is why recognizing symptoms — and communicating them to a Parkinson’s care team — can help patients find relief as symptoms change. Here’s what patients, in many stages of the disease, should look for.


First, the basics: Parkinson’s disease is primarily caused by low and falling dopamine levels. Only 10 to 15 percent of Parkinson’s cases run in families. We don’t know what causes the vast majority of cases. We think Parkinson’s is caused by a combination of people being predisposed to it by their DNA and coming into contact with some kind of environmental factor, such as an infection or a toxin. A lot of research is going into this area.

January 11, 2017

"Yes We Can!" But How? Here's a Plan to Answer our President's Eloquent Plea for Less Chat, More Action.

I had wanted to use this first blog post of 2017 to share my ideas for refocusing the blog this year. After listening to President Obama's farewell address last night, I junked that plan.

He concluded his eloquent and moving address with a plea for us to believe "not in my ability to bring about change -- but in yours." Watching the Obamas and Bidens work their way through the crowd as they exited, I wondered what I could do to respond to the president’s call to action.

The Facebook Bubble
My first thought? Post something on Facebook. But President Obama had mentioned how easy it was for us "to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods, or on college campuses, or places of worship, or especially our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions."

Fortunately, earlier in the day I’d seen an excellent, specific plan of action from yesterday's post on my favorite senior blog, “Time Goes By.” Written by the remarkable Ronni Bennett, "the mother superior of elderblogging,” the blog has been called "the quintessential seniors' blog" by The Washington Post.

GOP Confirmation Blitz
Ronni’s post was prompted by Republican attempts to confuse and distract us today by scheduling simultaneous confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump's nominees for attorney general, secretary of state, CIA director, and the secretaries of transportation and education. On top of that, Trump also scheduled his first open press conference since last July on the same day!

When I watch the TV news tonight, I'm sure the press conference will be the lead story, while the confirmation hearings will receive short shrift.

Constituents' Phone Calls Pay Off
Ronni reminds her readers that the thousands of phone calls from constituents forced House Republicans to reverse their decision to scrap the Office of  Congressional Ethics. Many news outlets attributed the reversal to the president-elect's tweet. But most members of Congress agree it was the deluge of phone calls that forced them to backtrack.