“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.”
So wrote the philosopher Democritus who was born in 460 BCE (although some claim his year of birth was 490 BCE). He acquired fame with his knowledge of the natural phenomena that existed in those times and history writes that he preferred a contemplative life to an active life, spending much of his life in solitude. The fact that he lived to beyond 100 suggests his philosophy didn’t do him any harm.
OK! Before I continue, please let me state, as before, that I write to you purely as Jean’s husband. I have no medical skills or knowledge at all and if you are at all affected by any of the following make an appointment to see your own doctor!
The crux of this post is Jean’s relationship with a naturopathic doctor at a practice in Seattle. The practice is Seattle Integrative Medicine (SIM) and a number of the doctors at SIM specialise in patients with PD. That’s how Jean was connected with Dr. Laurie Mischley. (Dr. M)
When one goes to the web page for Dr. M one reads:
Clinical Specialties – Parkinson’s Disease (PD)/Parkinsonism
Dr M conducted tests including testing her ear wax*, extensive blood analysis and an analysis of a sample of Jean’s hair.
* Dr. M has a dog that can reliably smell the presence of PD in human ear wax!
The favourite drug for those with PD is Levadopa. Within 48 hours of Jean taking Levadopa she had a serious allergic response to that drug.
Back to Dr. M’s tests. All three tests were non-indicative of PD. A while later, in a subsequent telephone conversation, Dr. M wondered if Jean really did have PD. She recommended a referral to the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland. Specifically to their Department of Neurology and to Dr. John Nutt. His background may be viewed here. From which one notes:
John Nutt, M.D.
Co-founder and Director Emeritus of the OHSU Parkinson Center and Movement Disorders Program
Professor of NeurologySchool of Medicine
Special focus on
Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders
Jean’s appointment was at 08:30 on Tuesday, 9th July. In terms of the timeline of all of us, Jean was diagnosed as suspected of having PD in December, 2015.
Dr. Nutt saw us promptly at 8:30 and immediately revealed a listening, caring attitude. He also quietly admitted that he had been a doctor specialising in neurology and movement disorders for 39 years! There was no question in my mind that we had landed in front of the ideal physician under these circumstances.
Over the next hour, Dr. Nutt examined Jean in a great number of ways. From her stretching her arms out, Dr. Nutt examining Jean’s arm joints, watching Jean walk along the corridor outside his examining room, and much more.
Eventually he paused and looked us both in the eyes. He then spoke quietly: “Jean is displaying a number of classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. I have no doubt that Jean does have the disease.”
Of course it wasn’t long before I mentioned Laurie Mischley’s opinion that Jean might not have PD. But Dr. Nutt was very clear with his reply. Namely that PD cannot be determined from hair and blood tests alone and that the potential sufferer must be examined physically.
Dr. Nutt asked me if I had noticed that when Jean held her arms straight out in front of her at shoulder height the tremors in her right hand ceased yet when she was relaxed with her hands in her lap the tremor in her right hand was very noticeable? I had not spotted that.
“Paul, that is a classic Parkinson’s characteristic.”
Dr. Nutt went on to say that watching Jean walk gave him another indicator of PD. Because although Jean walks well she doesn’t swing her arms. Classic PD!
Without doubt, Dr. Nutt’s impression was Idiopathic Parkinson’s disease.
But Dr. Nutt also said that Jean was doing incredibly well taking into account that she would have been suffering from the disease for at least 4 to 5 years and that her commitment to lots of exercise including her RockSteady class, that he was aware of, and her vegetarian diet was critically valuable.
It was now time to turn to medication for Jean. Dr. Nutt said that of all the drugs Levadopa was the ideal to combat the loss of dopamine in the brain. He was puzzled as to why Jean had had such a strong allergic reaction to the drug. He wondered if it was a reaction to the Carbidopa that in the USA was so often a component of the Levadopa medication. If so, that could be worked around. Dr. Nutt even mused that he had known of a patient who was allergic to the yellow dye that is sometimes in that medication.
His medication plan for Jean was for her to start on a 1/2 tablet of carbidopa-levadopa 25-100 mg tablets just once a day and if she has no bad reaction in a week then up that to two 1/2 tablets a day. If no adverse effects then increase by 1/2 tablet every week until taking 1 tablet three time a day.
So here we are, a week and a day after we returned from OHSU and, touch wood, Jean has had no adverse effects and is now on two 1/2 tablets a day.
But a postscript to that consultation with Dr. Nutt. At the very end I said that I had two questions. Dr. Nutt welcomed me to ask them.
“My first question is to do with the trend for PD. Is it getting worse?”
“Paul, here in the USA we are seeing a slow but definite decline in the incidence of Parkinson’s. What was your second question?”
“Dr. Nutt, my next question was whether or not science was pointing a finger at the cause of Parkinson’s disease?”
He replied without hesitating: “We are seeing a strong correlation between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease.”
Upon hearing that, Jeannie immediately spoke up recalling her times out in the Mexican fields when the crop-spraying aircraft flew right overhead. Adding that she had at times been drenched by the spray.
But, please, let us not forget: Association is not causation!
That’s enough for today. Because I was going on to include information about the importance of exercise. About managing one’s life really well. About the importance of diet and overall health. In a sense, not just for PD sufferers but for anyone the wrong side of 60 years old!!
That will be coming along soon!
I will close by thanking everyone at OHSU. The quality of care, attentiveness and experience of the staff backed by world-class resources was second-to-none!
To be in their system, so to speak, is a privilege.