To Go, or Not - I Went!
You may have read my previous submission entitled To Go or Not to Go. It deals with the issue of apathy. And is an update to that previous piece. Hint: I went!
One last trip to Europe
I’ve had PD since 2006. About 2011 - before DBS - I told my wife that I would take her to Europe one more time, and that it would be the last of our long-haul travels. In 2017, she called me out on it. There should be a statute of limitations on promises like that. Things change, and with PD, it’s usually for the worse.
I did NOT want to travel anymore. Apathy had settled in. Apathy is not depression, but being apathetic over extended periods of time across many decisions can contribute to depression. So far, I’d say I was just “hyper-apathetic,” not depressed.
Apathy results when dopamine levels diminish, and somehow cause PWP to lose the ability to “anticipate positive outcomes or pleasure” in decision making. With no reason to be hopeful of a benefit or reward we stop deciding in favor of “action,” and because many of those requests for action come from family, especially caretaker spouses, disappointment and tension can rise.
So, in the spring of 2017, I was informed by my wife that we were indeed going abroad that fall, with her business partner, Ken, and his wife. Seven cities in twenty-one days was the plan. Ugh! I pleaded my case (a little) that I was no longer fit to travel, that my balance was a problem, and that my communication abilities had become severely impaired because I slurred so bad. I was worried about making everyone else’s experience less fulfilling.
Fortunately, Ken, my wife’s business partner, was making every arrangement. I wouldn’t have to lift a finger I was told. I must say, Ken did an admirable job of making all the arrangements and keeping us organized. I give him super kudos for his effort and execution.
Mind the gap
After some long, uncomfortable flights, from California to Detroit with a very long layover, and then Detroit to Amsterdam, we arrived at Schiphol Airport in the morning. I lived in Amsterdam in 1972 as a long-haired hippie and street musician, but mostly I played to meet girls. Ah, those were the days.
The train from the airport into Amsterdam stopped at central station and I was the first one out. And that’s when it all went south, and I don’t mean to Belgium.
Everyone who travels to Amsterdam is familiar with the sign. It’s as plain as day. One would have to be an idiot to miss it. Meet the idiot. I missed the sign that reads, “MIND THE GAP” and on my first step out onto foreign soil I fell between the train and the station platform, ripped my right leg wide open, and bled like I was shot.
Once we got the bleeding stopped we hailed a cab, made a pharmacy stop, and then made our way to the hotel. We got the ugly wound cleaned up and wrapped, and headed out to explore my favorite city in Europe. I love the vibrancy of Amsterdam where people, bicycles, cars, and trams work like a symphony. And the Dutch are by far the friendliest folks in Europe.
Next stop, a Budapest emergency room
I managed to hobble down the cobblestones for three days, but my leg suffered for doing it. My wounds had clearly taken a turn for the worse. It had become infected. But, we had a plane to catch, and off to Budapest we went.
As soon as we checked into our Budapest hotel, we had the concierge order a doctor up to our room. The doctor came promptly, examined the leg, and made a couple of phone calls. She then informed us that the leg was so infected that I should go immediately to a hospital, and, oh sorry, the private hospitals would want no part of my infection, so I would have to attend a public hospital.
The doctor drove us to the nearest hospital, checked us in, and then promptly left to fend for ourselves. Nobody spoke a lick of English. It was frustrating and frightening. We sat and watched in disbelief as one ambulance after another delivered bloodied heads, screaming women, and a steady stream of broken folks on dirty gurneys into that hectic, unclean, overcrowded emergency room.
My wife was now a little distraught, fearing that they might cut my foot or lower leg off. After about an hour of being in limbo a nurse, Igor or Olga, I’m still not sure which, came and found us and took us to an examination room where we met a young doctor with good English skills. He drew some blood, biopsied the wound and then sent me off for an x-ray which indicated no breaks or fractures. The doctor issued me a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers. Then we were back on the street again searching for a taxi and a pharmacy. We found both.
I didn’t see any of Budapest or Vienna because I was laid up in bed with ice packs around my elevated wounded leg. Fortunately, I did heal nicely and enjoyed the next four or five stops, especially the last two, Paris and London.
In this case, apathy was trying to protect me, but I overrode it with logic - and look what happened. Traveling with advanced PD can be more difficult, but not impossible. Don’t let apathy take over your life, but do pay attention to it. Also, be observant of your growing lack of balance, and get a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers before you take your trip. With PD a little forward thinking one can help you avoid catastrophe. Oh, and one last thing – MIND THE GAP.
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