Saturday, August 15, 2009

Give me a toe, Parkinson's Pas de Deux

There I was, frozen in the neurologist's office. They were measuring my ability, or in this case, my inability to move while off medication. I was easy to measure because hey, I was not moving much. As I hobbled from one area of the office to another, the attending neurologist suddenly planted her toe in front of my foot as if to trip me. This is not as far-fetched a possibility as it sounds. One of the standard parts of a PD exam is to be tugged from behind as a test of balance. Why not a "trip" test, too?

In fact what she was doing was the opposite. Without a word, she shot a toe in front of me. Without a pause I understood. "Step over the toe" my Parkinson's sense told me. And with a step as light as a dancer (OK, maybe not that light, think of the hippo ballerinas in "Fantasia.") I gracefully performed my part of the dance, executing a "Grand jeté de PD" over the helpful obstacle.

This became almost a game in our family, with Pam and Wiley enthusiastically throwing toes for me whenever I ground to a halt. I never asked but now realize that this is for them a concrete and simple way for them to help in the daily struggle I wage with this disease. By lending their toe, they can lend a hand.


Dan said...

I am glad that your surgery was successful, but I know it is not an easy road. Your sense of humor and great outlook are inspiring all of us out here PD land.

I understand from a number of friends that speech is affected in some after the surgery. Was this true in your case?

Do take care and thanks for your visits. You have been an encouragement to me.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

So far so good. I asked about this and was told the speech centers are very close to the subthalamic nucleus and thus vulnerable to interference from electrical stimulation. But it will take more than that to shut me up.

Carry on Dan, I am wishing you the best and appreciate your thoughtful contributions to discussion here, and of course, on your blog.


bill said...

Thanks for your blog. I also try to deal with the beast by hitting it with humor -- my blog is "Deep Brain Diary" at --

If you don't mind, I'm going to write something nice about your blog and then put a link to it in my blogroll.

Hang in there, fellow DBSer!


Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Thanks for your kind words and the link. I now hasten to your blog to check it out.

Festinate forward!


bill said...

I'm more of a shuffling freezer than a fast-walkin' festinator...

But thanks!


Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hey Bill, I linked back to you, Kick back and watch your hit counter, uh, just sit there with no perceptible change.



Karla Hart said...

How I wish I knew of "throwing a toe" almost thirty years ago! One particularly bad evening found me on hands and knees in the middle of a busy street in Hawaii struggling to free one foot after another to get my father across the last half of the street crossing. Thanks for your blog. I will share info with yet another family friend learning about Parkinson's first hand.

Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hi Karla,
Harrowing story. Painful to read. Glad you both got through it.

My son Wiley and I were crossing the street on the way to my neurologist's office as a huge piece of heavy equipment lumbered toward us. I kept waiting for adrenalin to kick in, and Wiley kept throwing toes. I am sure the operator of the big rig was wondering what in the world we were doing. A walk down the street is an adventure with PD!


Anonymous said...


I can't help thinking of these lines from Milton's poem, "L'Allegro":

"Come, and trip it as you go
On the light fantastic toe."

It's true he means dancing, not "tripping" as such. But you strike that "allegro" note in any number of ways.

All best,


Peter Dunlap-Shohl said...

Hey Jennifer,

Who knew Milton wrote about Parkinson's? And how great is it that he should turn up in the same thread as hippo ballerinas?

Great to hear from you,