Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
About five years ago I first took notice of the trembling in my left hand. Indications might have taken place earlier, but as my wife and friends will tell you, I’m not the most observant of people.
A little bit about me: I retired from the Air Force in 2004 and almost immediately earned my credentials and became a paid ski patroller at our local ski resort in Utah. My wife was a bit disappointed that I didn’t take a more lucrative job in business. It may have been presentient when I told her I felt I had a narrow window of opportunity to do something requiring a certain degree of physical skill and I needed to take advantage at that point in time. I had recently turned 53 and we were in a position where we could live comfortably though not spend extravagantly. Thank goodness my wife was accepting of my desires as the past 16 years have been filled with joy at my decision.
First signs of shaking
But back to 2015. I’m first responder to an injured skier and as I work on my patient I notice my left hand shaking. I complete providing the necessary care, package the patient into the toboggan and see him off; dismissing the shaking as a mixture of cold and the adrenaline rush of working a patient. As time went on so did the frequency. It took me two years before I brought the shaking to the attention of my doctor and his initial diagnosis was essential tremors for which he put me on Primidone. The following year, during my normal wellness check, he noticed my tumbling while at rest and referred me to a neurologist. She diagnosed my condition as early stage Parkinson’s Disease and placed me on a low dose of Ropinirole.
That was 2018; I’m now at the maximum dosage allowable. I’ve been extremely fortunate, to date. I’m still functioning fairly normally... the left hand shaking is the most visible sign though my left foot is beginning to shake slightly at certain times too. I’ve noticed my sense of balance isn’t what it was, though blaming it all on Parkinson’s may not be fair since I am 68 now. And that’s something that is curious; how much of the deterioration in one’s physical abilities is due to natural aging as opposed to the disease? Anyway, I’m still doing well enough to continue as a contributing member of the patrol though I have informed the Patrol Director of my malady, and have recused myself from participating in avalanche mitigation work for fear of not being able to support my partners in an avalanche situation.
Enjoying the present times
Life, for me, has remained pretty much what I would call: normal. I suffer very few side affects from the medication... the most telling are the sleep attacks which usually take place if I’ve had more than one alcoholic beverage (yes, I’ve fallen asleep while talking to my best friend and neighbor) or in the evenings while watching TV. I also find I can only sleep four to five hours a night. I have a stiff gait usually when I begin walking after sitting for awhile, loss of balance to some degree, losing common words or friends’ names on occasion, a general forgetfulness... where’s my phone, the car keys?
I have put aside my goal of skiing when I turn 100. Otherwise my life hasn’t changed much... that I’ve observed; which leads me to the title of my story... when will things begin deteriorating at an increased rate? What is next? Will I find I’m less tolerant of the next level of medications? When will I no longer be able to do those things I’m passionate about? I rarely think about these things mainly because I believe that I have no control over the progression of the disease and my neurologist and I will face each situation as they arise. So I enjoy the present and make future plans based on how I’m presently doing. Most importantly, I thank each day I have, days that I can share with my wife, kids, grand kids and friends.
Do you think there is enough awareness of Parkinson's disease?