My diagnosis with Parkinson's Disease in September 2009 at age 80 gave my life a new focus and challenge. Finding ways to meet this challenge helped make 2010 the best year of my life. I hope this blog will be a place where I can connect with others who also are dealing with aging and its afflictions and attractions so that we can share our "experience, strength and hope."
With my friend David. His shirt reads “LIFEGUARD,” which --
as far as this narrative is concerned -- is just about
It’s been an interesting week and a half. Here’s a recap
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.
No surprise -- the tests revealed a fractured hip. There were other issues, too. It
looked like surgery would happen the next day.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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
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.