I stopped the car in the handicapped zone in front of the hospital.
“Stay in your seat until I get your walker,” I reminded Rodger when I heard the telltale click signaling the opening of the clasp on his seatbelt.
“I can walk. I don’t need it.”
He hated the walker and frequently “forgot” to use it at home. He was weak and on oxygen from worsening C.O.P.D. (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and on blood thinners after a heart attack. The combination put him at very high risk for a fall and to make matters worse, the tremors in his hands were increasing in frequency and intensity. The movements of his arms and legs were often stiff. All signs of Parkinson’s disease. I had suspected he had it for quite some time. Months before I had insisted on a consultation with a neurologist even when his primary care doctor didn’t agree with my diagnosis. Neither doctor was thrilled with my persistence. Who was I to think I knew more than his doctors?
“I see no signs of Parkinson’s disease,” the neurologist stated after only a few minutes of observing Rodger. He had him sit and then stand. Next he had him walk across the room and turn around and come back. “Smile,” he said. Not sure to whom he was speaking we both did our best to accommodate him. We both did a very poor job of it.
“If we walk down the hall, wait a few moments, and come back in here he will be shaking and you’ll see what I’m talking about,” I said.
“That may be true but I see nothing now and I have another patient due in five minutes. If the symptoms continue or worsen schedule another appointment and bring him back.”
So there we were, back. The slow shuffling steps he took while hunched over the walker and the masklike look on his face were symptoms so prominent I was sure there was no way the doctor could doubt me and he would get the care he needed for this latest insult to his body.
Then it happened. As soon as he entered the hospital his demeanor changed. He took a deep breath and stood as tall and straight as he ever had. His walk morphed from a shuffle to measured steps that were a bit slow but nothing out of the ordinary for an elderly man. He held that posture until we entered the elevator that would take us to the fourth floor. Seeing that we were alone, he dropped the pose and leaned heavily on the walker breathing deeply. He stayed that way as we exited the elevator and passed people walking down the hall, right up until I opened the door and ushered him into the doctor’s office. Once inside he immediately pulled himself upright and the shuffling stopped as he walked to a chair and sat down.
“What brings you here today, Mr. Carducci?” the doctor asked.
How does he do that? How can he morph into a vision of relative health when only moments before he was showing every symptom of a very serious illness? I wondered if the doctor had seen the same sly “gotcha” gleam in his eyes that he cast my way before he spoke, “She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”
The doctor looked at me, shook his head, and sighed. I’m sure Rodger thought he’d fooled him again but, after having him go through the same serious of tests and movements he’d done before, the diagnosis was quite different.
“Mr. Carducci, you have Parkinson’s disease.”
Rodger bowed his head and sat silently for a few moments. When he finally looked up and turned toward me the sly gleam had been replaced by a look of sorrow so deep I almost wished he had pulled off his act again. His hand began to shake and he slumped in the chair.
As the doctor and I began to discuss what treatment he would receive and what to expect in the future, I heard Rodger mumble softly.
“She knew it. She’s the only one who knew it.”
Sometimes being right is a very painful thing.
Does your loved one deny or try to hide symptoms from you and/or the doctor?
For a very interesting and informative article on this type of denial go to: http://www.humandevelopmentmag.org/articles/fa-summer10.pdf and read the piece titled,
“I’m Fine! Fine! Fine! Dealing with Maladaptive Denial by Suzanne Meyer, I.H.M.
For more information about Parkinson’s disease: http://www.parkinson.org/ and https://www.michaeljfox.org/understanding-parkinsons/living-with-pd/topic.php?support-groups
As always, I look forward to your comments.