Dancing in the Rain: Lessons Learned on my Personal Journey with PD (more at www.PDPlan4Life.com) Copyright 2013-18 Sheryl Jedlinski
By Sheryl Jedlinski
My wake-up call came one Saturday night when my husband, Tony, and I were leaving a trendy Chicago steakhouse. One minute I was fine, the next my Parkinson’s medicines stopped working, and I froze, unable to take a step or stand on my own. Acutely aware that neither Tony, my signature walking sticks, nor the wall I was leaning against, could keep me upright for long, I yelled for someone to bring me a chair. Sitting in the hallway, waiting for Tony to return with our car, I imagined how Cinderella felt watching her carriage morph back into a pumpkin.
My meds no longer wear off gradually. I am either “on” or “off”, like a light switch, and my “on” time gets shorter and shorter. When “off,” painful foot cramping, toe curling, and the malpositioning of my feet stop me dead in my tracks. I feel as if my feet are suctioned to the floor. The cost of denying my disease progression has become too high, I told Tony on our drive home. My body’s inability to perform reliably when I have only walking sticks for support greatly increases my risk of falling. I have worked too hard to allow myself to be taken down by vanity.
I googled mobility aids as soon as we got home from dinner. I quickly discovered that the right walker could be as empowering as my walking sticks have been, enabling me to go most anywhere I desire, significantly improving my quality of life. Monday morning, following personal training, I test drove my top choice at a local mobility device store. On Wednesday, it was delivered to my home, and on Thursday, I took it to Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center for my appointment with my Movement Disorders Specialist (MDS). She was glad to see me actively working to regain control of my life, rather than waiting for new prescriptions.
My new mobility aid is the “Tesla” of walkers, incorporating the latest in innovation and design. A European style, upright, four-wheeled rollator, it boasts (among many other features):
The best walker for you is the one you use daily. It cannot prevent falls if it never leaves the trunk of your car or if it is pressed into duty as a clothes drying rack. The type of places you frequent and the activities you enjoy, as well as the limits of your insurance/Medicare/Medicaid coverage will dictate the features most important to you.
Your best bet is to consult with a professional to ensure that you choose the best type of walking aid for your needs, it is adjusted to fit your body, and you are trained to use it properly. Relying on devices that provide more support than you require can negatively affect your long-term mobility, activity levels, and overall health. This is one reason I didn’t by-pass rollators and go right to power scooters or electric wheelchairs.
Although I’ve only had my rollator for a few days, it already surpassed my expectations when put through its paces on a day trip to a resort city in Wisconsin. I strolled the downtown area with ease, navigating narrow doorways and aisles inside shops crammed full of merchandise; climbing up and down high cement steps; and sharing rough pavement with children, pets, strollers, and bikes. Without my new mobility aid, I suspect I would not have been comfortable enough to attempt this trip.
Once again, I found my way around the latest obstacles life put in my path. Though I still have Parkinson’s disease, Parkinson’s disease does not have me.