So there has to be a beginning to all this and since many may be unfamiliar with PD (Parkinson’s Disease), a little background would be useful. There are many resources on the web to learn about PD, so I want to skip all the details, but a few important facts ..
By the time you notice symptoms, 80-90% of the dopamine cells are already gone. Kind of like going into the Sahara desert thinking you have a full tank of gas and having the fuel light come on. Then the check engine light comes on and your thinking now I am really screwed. But with a check engine light, they plug your car into the computer and viola, your problem is solved and they replace whatever was wrong. With PD there is no lab test or MRI to identify it. Basically the neurologist runs you through a series of tests and rules out other neurological conditions . The diagnosis is primarily based on your symptoms. So what sent me down this path?
I vividly remember the day that a fellow soccer player asked why I did not swing my left arm when I ran. I responded, “I never knew that”, as a chill ran down my spine. I knew intuitively that something was wrong. Then I noticed my left hand would sometime freeze while typing. That sent me to my primary care doctor who referred me to a neurologist. Well after many tests, he suspected PD, but because my symptoms at this point were still mild he sent me to a movement disorder specialist.
I drove the hour and a half to the appointment and she looked at my files and ran me through the usual physical tests. Towards the end of the appointment she was not convinced that I had PD, but as I got up to leave (feeling a little better about this whole thing) she said, “oh, one more test”. She asked me to raise my arm and there it was, a slight tremor. “You have PD”, she announced with almost excitement at figuring this case out. I mean it was as nonchalant as ordering a cheese burger with fries at a burger joint. She then topped that off with “At least you don’t have MS”…can I have a coke with that.