Lake Belton: Wrestling With Parkinson's
We had to leave our Campers On Mission project in Newton in order to make a routine stop at the Scott & White (S&W) Neurology Clinic in Temple. Gloria has been on medication for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) since last February, and she has been doing quite well. Her balance and speech have improved, and she has never had tremors. She often “loses” her wallet or cell phone around the house, and keeping up with her grocery list is a frequent challenge. However, her long-term memory is excellent, and her Bridge playing has not suffered. She sleeps easily while riding in the car. while at the computer, while watching TV, and during the most dynamic sermons. Sleeping all night is a totally different story. Her hand and arm strength have deteriorated noticeably, but her overall attitude is positive.
We arrived at the Corps of Engineer Park at Lake Belton on Monday just after dark , and thankfully, a caring volunteer led us to our campsite using his golf cart. Early the next morning we headed to the S&W Clinic located about nine miles away. The physician asked both of us many questions concerning Gloria’s health, and we both complained about her inability to sleep at night—recognizing that part of the problem relates to her numerous naps during the day.
Jerry also lamented that Gloria sometimes falls out of bed. The doctor was greatly concerned about both issues and prescribed a sleep medication. He emphasized the importance of using only half a pill at bedtime. All went well the rest of the day, and we elected to stay one more night in our scenic lakeside site, where we were surrounded by deer, water, and lovely sunsets. Gloria took the new medication at bedtime, but by 2:30 a.m. she was in agony. She ached all over and could barely move in bed. Jerry attempted to move her, but she would cry out in pain. Finally at 3:30 a.m. we called the EMT; their response was quick and efficient. They recommended a return to S&W Emergency Room, as they thought Gloria had one or more cracked ribs after falling out of bed a week earlier. Gloria chose to ride in our truck rather than the ambulance, as she said she could not lie down. A huge EMT guy got her on her feet and into the truck. At the hospital we endured a long wait, but finally obtained an X-ray which showed no broken ribs. The ER physician’s diagnosis, two hours later, was that Gloria was suffering muscle spasms, and he prescribed a relaxer. He was aware of all of her other medications. Gloria used the new medication as prescribed, and seemed to get some relief; at bedtime she took her half-pill for insomnia. That night (Wed.) bedlam struck. Gloria could not get out of bed, and she was in pain and could not even make it to the bathroom. At one point, however, she was able to get on her feet while Jerry was totally out of it. She fell in the hallway of our trailer and smashed her mouth to the point that she was bruised and bleeding. (This photo was taken 5 days later. You should have seen her right after the fall). By this time both of us were in tears. Jerry was not sure what was going on, but he made an executive decision: No more medication and no emergency room! By 4:00 a.m. Thursday, Gloria was sleeping it off and dozed all day. A call to the neurologist’s office that afternoon confirmed that the decision to forego both the sleep medication and muscle relaxer was a wise one. While Gloria was sleeping, Jerry was researching various meds and their effect on Parkinson’s Disease . It seems that any new medication can have a negative impact on the patient. Late that afternoon, Gloria was improved. We took a short but rather unsteady sunset walk along the lakefront. The patint had also developed a healthy appetite and a bit of a smile.
Meanwhile, our children were calling, trying to console their distraught father, whom they have rarely seen come as unraveled as he was on Wednesday and Thursday. Gloria slept well Thursday night, and was mobile. Jerry was exhausted. Friday was bright and sunny, and Gloria was almost back to normal. We were both able to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, and we stayed at the park for as long as we could (2:00 p.m.). A couple of hours later, we were back home in Hillsboro and drove though the friendly gates of our Airstream village with its “Welcome Home” sign. This was the first time we had seen our cozy little house since June 2. It was neat and clean, thanks to our trusty cleaning lady, Dawn. During our frequent absences, she dusts, regulates the temperature, waters the flowers, and runs the Toyota Celica. What would we do without her?
The next day Jerry began the process of inventing a sturdy "rail" to keep Gloria from falling out of bed. The final design utilized the framework from an old thrift store stadium seat. It is designed to fit firmly between the mattress and box springs and is high enough to hopefully prevent a fall. It folds for storing and travel. Now we both sleep better, and Gloria is already talking excitedly about our next trip.