Monday, 24 January 2011

The Price of Complacency and Being Wobbly - Revised, Revisited, and Republished

This blog in its original form was first published following the World Parkinson’s Congress. Slice of Life (Jon Stamford) very kindly made the comment that it had been my best blog to date and I have decided to revise and republish it as it disappeared following a restructure of the Wobbly site towards the end of 2010…….

Two weeks prior to [originally] writing this my elder daughter sat exams to win a Bursary at a well known independent girls’ school. She was one of a handful of girls chosen to sit these (well, two handfuls to be precise ….). A fantastic achievement as she was selected from a number who had applied. Having taken the approach that she was going to “get by” on her natural ability, of which she has plenty, she took the decision not to do any prep work. My husband and I tried, but failed, to get her to “knuckle down”. Elise’s approach to such matters is that she works hard at school, therefore why should she work hard at home. Being reluctant to make a big fuss over the issue, we took the path of least resistance and didn’t force the issue.

The day of the exams came and went, there was a lot of pressure on my first born with 3 papers and two interviews, and afterwards I treated her to Hot Fudge Cake with Ice Cream, washed down with Lemonade at a local tea room. We both waddled out afterwards feeling rather fat. My purse had lost a few pounds whilst I, on the other hand, had gained a few! Whilst waiting for my daughter to come out from her interview with the Deputy Head and the Chairman of the Governors, I sat and reflected on 11 years ago, when she was only 5 weeks old. At that time, she had been taken critically ill with suspected septicaemia, but on admittance to Salisbury hospital was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, in excess of 250 beats per minute (Supra Ventricular Tachycardia or SVT). She was placed on a drug, which 6 months later my husband and I insisted she be taken off, as our beautiful baby daughter was screaming 24/7 and was covered from head to toe in infected eczema. On top of that, she was under-weight and not developing as she should have been. Our insistence paid off – it transpired that she had a severe allergic reaction to one of the additives in the drug that she was on. 11 years later, our daughter is, in our eyes, a wonderful child who is intelligent and very creative. We were definitely not complacent at the time in questioning the Paediatrician over whether our daughter should be on the drug concerned. Or rather my husband wasn’t – I was suffering from severe sleep deprivation at the time! (In later discussions I definitely wasn’t complacent, when said Paediatrician was keen to place my daughter on a regime of beta-blockers. I stood my ground and refused, he backed down – eventually.)

Going back to the exams to win the Bursary, we received the results in the post a little over a week later. Elise had been offered a place, but not the Bursary. Unless we can find the funds from another source, she cannot go. It goes without saying that we (my husband, me, and my daughter) were all disappointed. But the most disappointed was Elise, as she had decided on the day, at the eleventh hour, that she really wanted to win the coveted place. That was the price of our complacency and a bitter pill to swallow.

But there is another Price of Complacency, and that is the price of being complacent about Parkinson’s. It is up to us, as People with Parkinson’s, to make sure that we are not only heard, but to find the wherewithal to enable research to find a cure, or at the very least a way of halting the progress of Parkinson’s to be found. For those of you who were there at the opening ceremony of the World Parkinson’s Congress in Glasgow, you will recall that Bryn Williams’ speech was nothing short of inspirational. Bryn’s speech was a classic Call to Arms in the war being waged against a hidden enemy, the enemy being Parkinson’s. Quite rightly he had a standing ovation – he well and truly deserved it. Bryn is definitely not being complacent. And like Bryn, each one of us shouldn’t be complacent – each one of us can make a difference to the future of Parkinson’s and in winning that war.

That difference can be just by quietly getting on with living our lives, ensuring we eat the right food that doesn’t conflict with our drugs regime, and that we exercise like fury to keep the effects of Parkinson’s at bay. The difference can be by ensuring that our Healthcare team delivers the right treatment at the right time, and to not be afraid to challenge when something doesn’t feel quite right. Eleven years ago, my husband and I were not afraid to challenge the Paediatrician looking after our daughter, and we are both jolly glad we made that challenge. That is the Price of Complacency.

Having had that experience, I am not afraid to challenge my Neurologist, my Parkinson’s Nurse or my GP if I think my treatment is not right. Also I am not afraid to say to strangers I have Parkinson’s, when they look at me in a strange way as I go all wibbly-wobbly and flustered when I’m out of my precious comfort zone. (Packing and paying for shopping, even a single item, is a classic example!) The reactions I have had range from the incredulous ("you're so young") to the ”so what” reaction. Most people I have come across are ignorant or misinformed about Parkinson’s, a few are well informed and some even want to do what they can to help. And as for the “so what’s” - well they just don’t care

In spite of the "so what's" of this world, we can make a difference by taking up the beat of that drum, in our own individual way, the drum that Bryn is banging in his call to arms. By doing so we can collectively and individually, raise awareness, raise money to fund research, or both. It is by doing our bit that we can rise up, make ourselves heard, put our stake in the sand and chivvy along those scientists and pharmaceutical companies to find a solution to the problem that is Parkinson’s. It is by doing our bit that we can make ourselves heard by the Politicians and Health Service providers to ensure that the right care is delivered at the right time, on time, every time. It is by doing our bit that we can raise public awareness and educate those who know little or nothing about Parkinson’s and its devastating effects.

The Price of Complacency with respect to Parkinson’s is living without question with the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s for the rest of your days. The Price of Complacency is not making your voice heard, not raising awareness, not raising funds. It is up to you whether you want to pay that price.

I, personally speaking, don’t intend paying the Price of Complacency when it comes to Parkinson’s. I, for one, would like to enjoy the years ahead of me as my children grow up, watch them go to University and make their way in the world. I certainly do not want to end up with my children taking on the role of caring for me. I definitely intend remaining independent and enjoying my dotage with my husband by my side for as long as I can! 

As far as my first born is concerned, her god-mother has convinced me that Elise will do well no matter which secondary school she goes to. That said, as her parents and therefore responsible for Elise’s education, my husband and I are of the opinion that the school she ends up at has to be the right school – we are definitely not being complacent.


Added in the wee small hours of 25th Jan – sleep evades me – again! At my clinic appointment with Dr T yesterday, he floated the suggestion of DBS (deep brain stimulation). We had already discussed the fact that I was not coping too well on an already high dose of Madopar, with the revision of my drugs regime to include other drugs for good measure to see me through the night (and primarily, to stop me kicking my poor long suffering husband in my sleep!). The suggestion was that I may need DBS sooner than originally anticipated, the sooner being in about 2 years’ time. I must admit I was somewhat taken aback. My experiences of hospitals have never been happy ones, be it problems following removal of numerous breast lumps in my 20’s, infertility problems in my early 30’s, problems following the births of both my children in my late 30’s and early 40’s, and most latterly a serious haemorrhage following a hysterectomy last summer. Dr T’s suggestion left me in a state of near shock and I was definitely not complacent when I expressed the view that I would rather run for the hills towing my zimmer frame behind me – those Olympic athletes coming to our Green and Pleasant Land in 2012 will be poor competition for me. The very thought of someone rootling around inside my brain, no matter how well qualified they are, frankly leaves me in a puddle of cold sweat on the floor such is my complete and utter fear! I jest not!

Following the appointment I met up by pre-arrangement with an old school chum who I hadn’t seen since leaving school in 1979 (good grief) – she is now Executive Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Always a very clever girl at school – one of a number in my year of which I was definitely not one – it transpired that she had done research in to early symptoms of Parkinson’s for her Doctorate! I didn’t discuss the future of Parkinson’s much with her – I’m afraid I was too much of a quivering Wobbly Wreck and my poor friend probably went home wondering if I was definitely in my right mind! But I hope very much that we can have that conversation soon – just as soon as I can manage to sensibly string more than two words together.

But there is one thing that I am absolutely clear about – I do not want DBS – absolutely no way. The very thought of it spurs me on to raise the profile and public perception of Young Onset Parkinson’s in any way I can for as long as I am physically able to, be it talking to politicians, giving interviews on the radio, or boring my family totally and utterly rigid with the subject. The very thought of DBS spurs me on, for as long as I am physically able to, to raise money, be it £1, £1,000,000, or any sum in between, for the funding of research, so as to move just that bit closer to the Holy Grail that is the Cure for Parkinson’s.


  1. It is all so familiar... I agree totally with your advice about retaining as much control over one's treatment as possible. Your account of your daughter's experiences bring to mind those of my wife with the birth of our first son, our second son who had a bad allergy, and my own short spells in hospital, which at times have bordered on the comical were it not for the fact that it is so bloody serious.
    You may/may not (as applicable) be interested in the following: Egg Allergy or Intolerance? It could be a matter of Life or Death: and Love And Other Drugs:

    Good luck



  2. Andy - thank you for your comment. Allergies and interolerance are not the issue with Parkinson's, but death of brain cells and loss of essential dopamine is. The issue with my daughter was a reaction to the additive, namely a bright yellow food colouring, that is added to the paediatric drug administered to young babies, to alert that it is a potentially fatal drug if administered incorrectly. On coming off the drug concerned she thrived!