Neurology Exam Reveals Parkinson’s Diagnosis

fountain, palm trees, flowers

In the midst of loss, there is beauty. A favorite site I photographed at The Breakers, Palm Beach.

Some statements I will remember the rest of my life because they changed my life. Like the hospital call about my boyfriend—Mr. Kraft has taken a turn for the worse. Like my veterinarian’s call—You have a very sick kitty. Like my sister’s call about mother—She’s gone. Like my neurologist’s diagnosis—You have Parkinson’s.

My first neurology exam

I was ninety minutes into a neurology consultation. It started with an electroencephalography (EEG) to check my brain wave activity. I rested on a bed for an hour while a technician gelled my hair and attached electrodes all over my scalp and connected leads to her computer. The diagnostic test was simple and painless. I had a blanket to snuggle under, and I even got to close my eyes most of the time.  I looked funny after the test because my hair was a gooey mess reminding me of too much Dippity Do. She mentioned the doctor always wondered what she’d create next. She gave me a comb to try to make it look better and assured me the gel would shampoo out. But I did not care. I wanted to see the doctor.

The Parkinson’s diagnosis

He watched me walk straight down a twenty-foot hallway, make a turn and walk back. Then we sat down in an exam room. He asked me many questions about my past health and family medical history. Did I have trouble sleeping or getting dressed? Had my handwriting gotten smaller? Had my sense of smell changed? Had I fallen in the past year? On and on! He typed on the computer keyboard as I talked. I drew a clock and placed hands and numbers around it. I performed some physical tests like standing up while he pulled me backward and forward by my shoulders. We played finger games as I responded to commands. I tapped my fingers together in a coordinated way as fast as I could. I moved my finger from the tip of my nose to the tip of his fingers. I gripped his hand.

Then the defining moment that came this time in a question—Has anyone in your family had Parkinson’s Disease? As I whispered, No, I felt like I had been punched in the solar plexus. The game changer question was suspended in the air for the last painless test. The electrodiagnostic test on my legs and ankles measured the electrical activity of muscles and nerves. When he completed it, all I remember are two words—Parkinson’s disease. He may have said, “You have the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.” Or “you have several symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.” Or simply, “You have Parkinson’s disease.”

How long can I live with Parkinson’s?

I was stunned speechless. I probably had a deer in the headlights dazed look! He explained that symptoms were different for each patient. I was glad he talked because I was incapable of putting two words together. Not everyone has tremors or shakes, I learned. I did not—at least not yet. He tried to reassure me that he had patients who had lived good quality lives for over two decades even though there is no cure for a Parkinson’s diagnosis.  As the consultation ended, I managed to ask what references he recommended that would not scare me. He suggested that Parkinson’s for Dummies was light reading.  I did not know if he was serious or not.  He gave me three weeks of sample pills to take daily with instructions to schedule another appointment. I left the office on a glorious sun drenched  South Florida day, Tuesday, May 13, 2014—my life going down an extraordinary path I would have never imagined.

Question: How did you find out your Parkinson’s diagnosis? I would love to hear from you.

Blessings!

Linda

6 comments

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    • Karen Bryson on July 18, 2018 at 8:37 am
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    Linda, I finally got a chance to check out your website at 4 am, of course I’m awake. Wow! Impressive! I enjoyed getting to know more about you for a change. I enjoyed reading about your childhood in Iowa, your career path, hobbies, and on to your Parkinson’s diagnosis.

    I giggled at your car automatically stopping at thrift shops. My car has trouble passing by them too!

    Something else that struck me that you said, was creative pursuits are a healing part of PD. I agree wholeheartedly, and as you know, I try to paint daily for that very reason. I believe you referred to it as balm for the soul.

    Wishing you good health, and success with your new website!

    Warmest regards,
    Karen

    1. Karen, PD and 4 AM just go together!! I know what that’s like. Palm Beach County is thrift store heaven! I can’t imagine my life without something creative going on all the time. Thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to comment. I wish you the best on your Parkinson’s journey. Keep on painting!! Blessings! Linda

    • Jackie on July 18, 2018 at 1:03 pm
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    Thank you for this website. My partner and I both have Parkinson’s. She was diagnosed 6 years ago, while I am just a year in. We have joked about starting a blog to chronicle the funny and challenging aspects of our struggles. You give me hope that we can overcome adversity through creativity.

    1. Jackie, Thank you for visiting my site and taking the time to comment. Just as creativity can help in healing, I believe the same is true with humor. Your partner and you just may be onto something! I have a set of I Love Lucy dvds and whenever I need a good laugh, they are the best medicine. Please stay in touch and let me know all about your future creations. Blessings! Linda

    • Susan on November 27, 2023 at 8:32 pm
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    My diagnosis and timeline are very similar to yours. I felt very fortunate that my neurologist diagnosed me at my first visit. I have heard of so many people that have had years of doctor visits with no idea what was causing their issues.

    1. Hi Susan, Thank you for the comment. In 6 months, I will reach the 10-year anniversary of PD. Hard to believe it has been that long!! It took over 2 years before I made it to the neurologist’s office, and he diagnosed me on the spot. I know someone that has PD because she has tremors and retropulsion, but she cannot get into the movement center to see a movement disorder specialist for over 8 months. Over the next months, I will write about how the disease has changed and has changed me. I am definitely out of the honeymoon phase!! Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re doing. Blessings! Linda

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