Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Visit to Vanderbilt Neurology

Yesterday I saw my neurologist.  In short, the clip above says it all.   All research seems to point in one direction: exercise.   Sometimes I think we Parkinsonians have our own mantra: Tomorrow is another day, so exercise already.  

We all know there's no cure. And we also know what we don't know: the cause. But the reality is, here we are, most of us "seniors," facing the frightening progression of a disease that can rob us of our facial expressions, our mobility, and even our voice.  So I came away from the doctor with a tweaked plan and a renewed commitment to find the most effective body movements for us--even if we can't lace up and run a marathon.

If you read yesterday's blog-- Hi Ho to Vandy we go--you know those annoying non-motor symptoms have been causing concern.  Of course, I admit to having been to a lecture on non-movement-related problems with PD and coming away convinced I had all of them.  But, realistically, I had been kvetching  about problems swallowing for 10 months or more.  My primary care physician had previously sent me for a swallow study, which showed problems from the start.  And lately I have been losing my voice, especially after 4 hours of lecturing.  Then there are the frequent hiccups attacks.  And, last but not least by any means, has been terrible insomnia, coupled with nightmares I wake up acting out.  Like some action hero [I was a fireman....duh], I wake up from cataclysmic battles and hit the floor fighting like a great Klingon Warrior.


Meds:  I finally confessed to my doctor that I had a history of NOT following the timetable for my medication that we had so carefully designed just for my goofy schedule.  I had been sloppy until the Blazing Symposium on Oct. 16th. And, in so many ways, that was a seminal moment for me, especially when one presenter looked across the crowd, glared into my eyes, and reminded us that the brain doesn't like inconsistency. So in the 10 days since that, I have felt much better, because I went back to that schedule.

But I still have difficult nights.  This is reminding me of that phenomenon known as "sundowning," where dementia patients get worse the more the day drags on.   She prescribed a medication to help me sleep more soundly and past my midnight to 3AM insomnia period.   Lack of sleep has caused untold misery around here, and it hasn't helped my rigorous teaching schedule.

Speech Therapy:  I start speech therapy as soon as I can set it up.  Short of giving me the operatic singing voice I always wanted, it should help voice and swallowing problems.  We'll see about the hiccups; they are still a source of puzzlement.

Exercise: I took the position that the best defense is an offense here and told her I was working diligently on the best possible exercise program short of hiring a personal trainer.

Last, but not least, is community and being a part of the larger PD family.  That's the driving force behind this blog.  That and Laughter.   I told her about accidentally shaking a large orange juice all over a table of businessmen  at a breakfast buffet.  If we can share our tears, we can share our laughter.

Ralph, creative consultant and paper grader
So I forge on today.  I face 4 classes of college freshman in a couple of hours. OY. What a generation gap, but I have already started that blog--and a novel!  More on those later.

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