Some 18 months ago, or thereabouts I tripped over my own feet and hit the ground like a sack of Spud’s!, hurting my wrist and arm. Feeling like a complete clumsy pillock, I went to the Doc to get some painkillers. During the consult he asked me walk up and down, do some “birdie dance” stuff, then said " here’s some painkillers and an appointment to see a specialist neurologist, I think you may have Parkinson’s disease, - next patient please…
I was told that the waiting list to see a neurologist was between 12 to 18 months away, unless I went private, when I could be seen next week.
As a Self Employed professional engineer, my work contracts were often abroad, and could last weeks, months, or over a year or more. I had a contract with a company in Belgium about to start, so I coughed up and saw the consultant guy a week later. He was very thorough in his testing and diagnosis, and confirmed that in his opinion that I was indeed developing Parkinson’s disease.
I completed the Belgian contract as quickly as I could, whilst shuttling back and forth for a day at a time here and there for further consults and meds balancing.
My shakes have responded well to the drug regime, but the non - motor symptoms of Parky’s have meant that I have been unable to carry on working at the level I was.
The planning and details of project management were slipping away from me, and after over 30 years of building process lines and factories the complexity began to overwhelm me. I found it very hard to summon the stamina to concentrate for long enough to complete the detailed planning and activity co-ordination required for successful and safe execution of the works I was contracted to undertake. The industry I worked in is a small community, and I have worked with some of the other specialised contractors for many years, they all know how things tie together, and on my last assignment, I know, and they know that they carried me.
I also have begun to forget the names of things, and technical descriptions of processes that I have referred to for years, it’s not that I have forgotten the actual stuff you understand, it’s that sometimes the word I need to describe something just escapes me for a couple of seconds. This may not sound like much of an issue, but when you are pitching for business, it is soul destroying to be stood in front of a potential client, trying to persuade them that yours is the company that they should engage to develop and deliver their process when you stand in front of them and tell them that you intend to install a process in which the output of stage 2 feeds into the,. … Ummm… Thingy, before being delivered to the ummm… Whatsit…
Even though the word Pop’s into place 5 seconds later, it is too late. The moment to impress has gone forever. Would you trust this company with your money and business future?
The anxiety of forgetting the names of things then sets off my tremor and the embarrassment around the room is thick enough to cut with a knife.
This is not how I wanted to end my career, but operating in my old work is doing me no favours, to say I am upset does not even come close, I feel so wretched I can not find the words. I am desolving my business and going to find some other purpose in life.
I have realised that whatever else Parkinson’s is, it is a thief, and a sneak thief at that.
I appreciate that this is a long and rambling, not to mention self indulgent post, but the Very act of writing down what having Parkinson’s means to me, and how it affects my life has been cathartic, I have not vented my frustration and anger at this condition before.
I know that my journey will be in many ways similar to that of many others, whilst also unique to me.
Just getting the anger and sense of injustice at developing this illness out makes it seem easier to rage against the world.
To all who have already faced and dealt with this illness, you have my respect, to all those people who have yet to face it, draw strength in knowing that eventually you will get the better of this damned thing.