Pre-Parkinson's Events Leading to My Diagnosis

About 5 years prior to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD), I noticed puzzling changes in my physical and mental functioning that I thought were unrelated and just signs of aging.

It started with falls

I was working as a speech pathologist in a hospital. I started tripping and falling on my face and head in the hallway. Blood seeped out of my head onto the floor.

This happened several times during the next few months. The ambulance came and I was taken to the emergency room where I needed stitches. I thought my shoes, rubber clogs, were sticking to the tiled floor ... that was the culprit!

Then, several months later, I was working a second job in a charter school. Coincidentally, a student was rushing through the crowded hallway during the change of classes and bumped into me, causing me to fall backward, banging my head onto the floor.

Profusely bleeding, I was sent by ambulance, to the emergency room to be stitched up again. I still had no clue as to the connection to my future diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

Experiencing weakness

About 6 months passed, I had to be re-certified for my annual CPR certification at the hospital. To pass the test, I had to perform CPR on a computerized mannequin to demonstrate my proficiency.

Previously, I was always able to pass the test without difficulty. This time, I was not able to pass the test compression part of the exam. I pushed on the chest of the mannequin with all my power, but I could not trigger it to register the compressions.

The examiner, kept chiding me that, "... petite nurses are able to push down hard enough to pass the test and, a 'big guy' like you can't push hard enough!" Keeping at it, I worked up a sweat trying to trigger the dummy to count these compressions, to no avail. Without passing this test, my employment would be terminated.

I started to panic about the thought of losing my job! I waited a few weeks and went to another hospital to get re-tested, thinking the mannequin was malfunctioning. Thankfully, I was able to pass the exam. I guess I was having a good PD day. So I was able to work there for another year.

My strength continued to decrease

During this period, it was becoming more difficult to lift and carry my large attaché case of therapeutic materials out of my car’s trunk into my office at the hospital. So, I then purchased a rolling crate to carry my therapy materials when I went into the patient’s rooms.

My strength was decreasing in my arms and hands. However, I was still able to continue working. I was trying to accommodate my symptoms, without thinking about the physical problems that were the causative factor.

Cognitive impairment

Nine months later, I realized that my executive functioning, immediate, short-term, episodic and working memories were getting worse. I made an appointment to see a neuropsychologist. After several hours of testing, I was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.

I started putting the puzzle together now, seeing the total picture. Even though I have treated numerous people with Parkinson's over the years, unfortunately, I was still in denial about my own symptoms and delayed needed care.

Seeing a movement disorder specialist

I made an appointment with a movement disorder neurologist. He confirmed my fears that I indeed had developed PD and recommended treatment with medicines and therapy.

In sum, even though I am a professional treating PD in others, I was initially unable to realize, that I had PD also.

We should never ignore "isolated" individual events that we are experiencing and seek medical care right away so that proper treatment be initiated and tracked.

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