GENETIC-INDUCED and MEDICINE-INDUCED PARKINSONISM
by James A. Marples
In August of 2003, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian. The driver ran a red traffic light and hit me as I was legally crossing in a crosswalk at the corner of Central and Oliver Streets in Wichita, Kansas. The impact threw me atop the man’s car hood. Then, he slammed on the brakes, tossing me to the hard pavement like a rag doll. I was transported by ambulance to Wesley Hospital in Wichita and my mother was transported by a kind policeman in his squad car which followed my ambulance to the hospital. I suffered a broken leg, in which surgeons put a metal plate with seven screws in my knee. After surgery, my mom was given a bed next to mine in a semi-private room. That arrangement worked fairly satisfactorily for a few days, until one day she sat upright, her eyes went cross-eyed and she slumped forward. My leg was clamped inside an exercise machine, so I couldn’t do anything except to holler “Nurse!!”. Luckily, a kind nurse caught my mom in her arms before she hit the floor. Mom was placed upon a stretcher and taken down to the CT-scan department. After about an hour, a doctor came in and told me: “James, your mother has had a massive stroke. She won’t talk, eat, drink, or care for herself ever again”. Naturally, I was devastated. Several weeks later, my mom indeed passed away.
I was alone in Esbon, Kansas, having left the hospital in a wheelchair. It is hard to pinpoint, but probably two years after I moved to Texas, I began to have light-headed spells. I went to a doctor who initially treated me for blood pressure, but he thought I was having a bit of ataxia, (clumsy physical movements) likely due to my car-pedestrian accident. I was prescribed medicines by him until he was partially disciplined by a medical Board for ethical violations pertaining to his own actions. Nevertheless, doctor-after-doctor kept prescribing me more and more RX-medicines. In 2013, here in Texas, I had the misfortune of trying to move a weather-beaten dangling tree branch that was hanging above my head. I was afraid it would snap and hit a school kid who sat under that tree. Instead, I barely touched it, and it snapped and came down and speared my forehead above my left eyebrow. I am lucky I didn’t lose an eye in that episode. Yet, I have a scar above that eye as a reminder.
A few members of my mother’s family had (and have) tremors and anxiety issues. My mother’s father had a head injury when his Navy plane crashed during World War One. He later traded a very nice home in Great Bend, Kansas for a wheat farm near Bloomington, Kansas in the late 1920’s. He was proud of it and was able to do a rarity: hire a photographer which photographed the tall wheat stalks. Just one day later his otherwise bumper-crop was ruined due to a hailstorm. The crop failure caused my grandfather to go broke. With a wife and growing family to feed, he had a nervous breakdown. In later life, he did odd jobs, carpentry and selling insurance, but he and the family drifted town to town. After his wife (my maternal grandmother died in 1966), he had another nervous breakdown. His adult children and mostly my mother (his eldest daughter) was able to take care of him and support him. By the 1970’s my mother had been married over a decade when her father again had a nervous breakdown. Since he was a veteran, the Veteran’s hospitals in Wichita and Topeka took him in, and he died in the Topeka VA Hospital.
My mother’s grandfather William Hampel of Great Bend, Kansas, had his left hand shake constantly, back in the 1930’s. That was long before Parkinson’s even had a name. One of my Riedl second-cousins just died of Parkinson’s complications last month in Wichita at age 67. Like me, he started showing symptoms in his 40’s. I am now 59. I have often wondered about genetic gene mutations since there have been more than one Riedl-Hampel marriage in my pedigree. And, there seems to be more than one Riedl-Kober intermarriage. Not exactly incest, but recessive genes exist, and may even skip over generations before yet another trait recurs.
Only recently, have some of my doctors speculated a combination of genetically-caused Parkinson’s and medicine-induced Parkinson’s. Just recently, I was hospitalized over two weeks to get my medicines regulated in balance and to ease bouts of anxiety and paranoia. Nobody should be stigmatized, illnesses ARE illnesses. Mental health problems CAN affect your physical functioning too. My mobility is still sluggish, but I am getting by as good as I can. Adequate treatment is the key to improvement. I hope that government (and especially elected and appointed officials) will approve more grants for genetic and pharmaceutical research. The question may not be whether Big Pharma develops a “silver bullet magic pill” or not; but rather whether or not doctors and the pharmaceutical companies can do prudent research and development and yet harness the urge to prescribe enormous amounts of pills that, some of which, may be excessive and do more harm than good. My pill-minder box previously got so full each day, that it was confusing with so many pills daily. I slipped out of my routine. I found that many people are overwhelmed when their medical pill protocols become so massive that it is akin to swallowing more pills than bites of food. I have known for years that I have brain lesions. Physician-prescribed drug-induced cerebral illnesses are serious. Whether it has a label of a “mobility disorder”, or “ataxia” or “pre-Parkinson’s” or “pre-M.S” or a “nervous breakdown” or “paranoia with tinges of Schizophrenia” or other designator, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Medicines can help, but the wrong ones (or too many trial medicines) can do indirect harm. Striking a fine balance is everything; and it is easier said than done.
JAMES A. MARPLES