My two daughters recently returned from almost a year’s absence – one in Kingston, Jamaica and the other in Calca, Peru. As you can imagine, there are thousands of pictures to go through, lots to catch up on, loads of laundry to do and plenty of stories to tell. As is usually the case, the stark contrast in cultures and living conditions, makes for quite a gulf between our worlds.
I heard a story of a woman who left home once a week for market day to sell her fruits and vegetables and earn the only money she would have until next market day. I heard the story of children who had to leave their parents home because the family could not afford to feed them. I heard stories of people scraping by to eek out a meagre wage for hard, physical labour. I also heard stories of how contented so many people were. It’s not like I’ve never heard or witnessed this before but, in the present context, I couldn’t help but wonder how those of us with PD would compare our lot in life in relation to such persons? Even more so, how does our life compare with those people is less developed or poorer countries and who also have Parkinson’s?
Follow any PWP (Person with Parkinson’s) blog and you will see that, by and large, the group is dominated by white, North American or English-speaking residents of the UK and Europe. Again, not so surprising a revelation. My guess is most of us are also of sufficient means that we can afford the time and access the internet provides. There is lots of discussion about the PD condition, research in the field, options for care and treatment, and of course our fair share of moaning and complaining about the latest PD symptom or flare-up. Yet, when we compare our present condition, with those disadvantaged in the developing world, we have a lot to be thankful for. Moreover, comparing our lot with those people in such countries that also have PD, we must surely consider ourselves fortunate. The medications available to us, the augmentative therapies, the surgical procedures and general overall access to health care – this is how we must view our condition – through a filter of privilege.
At a very personal level, I must confess to being somewhat sickened by the fact that the cost of one prescription drug to treat my PD costs almost $70,000 CAN per year. How many individuals in Peru or elsewhere in South America who have Parkinson’s could be treated with a basic course of generic levodopa for this amount of money? How many Jamaican’s or other Caribbeen residents with PD could receive some form of pain relief or therapy to ease their lives? Privileged? Indeed.
Yet, in spite of this, I will no doubt still rant and rave from time to time about my latest ailment. I will still bark and howl when I’m outraged. And I’ll likely ruminate about aspects of living with PD that some would consider benign at best. But I am happy to have my daughters home and happy they brought back this gentle reminder of life beyond our borders – of life that matters so much more.