First Steps, First Fall

RAMIV FIRST STEPS, Inaweofgodscreation, flickr

It was one year ago that I posted the following blog entry. I find it stunning that the effects of such a seemingly minor incident would still be present today. Yet, they are and so, for the newly initiated, or those just new to this blog, here’s a repost from November 22, 2015.

As the years go by, we all have monumental moments of note. As a toddler, it’s our first steps. As a child, the first day of school. Later, our first kiss. Our first graduation. Our first day on the job.

I’ve had the good fortune to check many of these “firsts” off my list.. This week, in a strangely twisted way, I had the “pleasure” of checking another off my list – my first PD fall!

I was raking leaves in the back yard – just plodding along, clearing off a flagstone patio for about the fourth time this season when my feet somehow got caught up in one another. As I felt myself begin to fall forwards, I sped up to try to take myself out of the fall. Bad idea. Practically running, I hurtled to the ground and ended in a more violent crash than if I had just let myself go.

Now, I’m a few days into severe chest pain from bruised (hopefully not broken) ribs, a stiffening neck and muscle aches throughout. When I have tremors or dyskenisis, it strains my muscles even more.

Yet, at the moment of my fall, as I lay there on the cold stone patio unable to move, one of my first thoughts was my next meeting with my neurologist. (As an aside, the other thoughts whereof that tv commercial where the frail elderly woman on her kitchen floor uses a “lifeline” button device and calls out, “help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” . I didn’t have a “lifeline”. I wondered who might be the first to discover me!)

As for my neurologist meeting, you should know that, for the past 15+ years, every 6 months, I’ve been asked a series of more or less the same questions. These questions – ranging from side-effects from my medication to my ability to dress myself or do routine tasks – are intended to track the progress of my PD. During a clinical trial that lasted almost 3 years, these standard questions were ramped up in frequency to every 6-8 weeks and the list of such questions swelled to include subjects such as my desire to start fires, any suicidal tendencies I might have, whether I had an increased interest in pornography or any compulsive behaviours. Mostly I would give the same repetitive answers (though the odd time I would lob out a completely different answer for the astonishment or amusement of an Intern or Fellow!).

These days, with that clinical trial behind me, I’m back to the shorter but standardized questions. I know what’s coming and what to expect. I have my duly rehearsed answers and will dutifully respond. Yet this time, there will be one difference. I will inevitably be asked if I have had any dizziness or if I have fallen.

“Yes!”, I will proclaim! “Yes, I have fallen!”.

Addendum: I did get up

Addendum to the addendum for the sequel: I didn’t break any ribs in the fall but it sure broke my confidence. I’m much more attentive and guarded when walking, much more concerned about potentially falling once more. This has lead to a sense of frailty that I’m still trying to overcome.One step at a time I guess…


Big Baby

baby pushups,snow mask, deviantart

Virtually every week, from a variety of social media sites, I read of a few suggestions for therapy or treatments to help with Parkinson’s. Some are clearly bogus aimed at pushing a product or a program. Others are worthy of more investigation to see if their claims can be collaborated. Some can be dismissed as not relevant to me personally while others seem to be just common sense.

Recently, I came across one strategy that was particularly alluring. I was drawn to it in almost a primordial manner. Let me briefly highlight what the article in the Underground Health Reporter  purported.

The authors suggested that when brain development or motor function is impaired, your nerve impulses become jumbled. When your nerve impulses are disorganized, so are your motor impulses and sensory impulses, endangering your overall health. They say that the “cross-crawl” technique is one of the easiest ways to activate your brain development and nervous system to give it the proper motor and sensory stimuli it needs to take control of your bodily functions—thereby preventing or rehabilitating health problems. The cross-pattern movement builds the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two.

These patterns are stored in the brain and are responsible for governing our nervous system, spinal muscles and coordination, and programming our bodily systems to work together as a team (no mention of that slacker dopamine on our PD team!). They go on to suggest that all of our bodily systems depend on cross-crawl integration, even cerebral activities, such as learning language, reading, hand-to-eye coordination and communication.

We’re encouraged to look to babies.

Until a baby learns to crawl she moves in a homolateral pattern. This means that the right hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body and the left hemisphere of the brain controls the left side of the body.If we failed to mature past this pattern of movement, our gait would be awkward and uncoordinated, with the right hand and right leg jutting forward at the same time. brain development

However, as soon as a baby begins to crawl, she activates the contra-lateral pattern of movement that is essential to her brain development and nervous system. She learns to reach out with her right arm as her left knee juts forward, and move her left arm forward as she picks up her right knee. We continue to learn this cross-crawl movement as we advance to walking, running and swimming.

The cross-pattern movement builds the bridge between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, allowing for electrical impulses and information to pass freely between the two.

They continue by pointing out some signs that your cross-pattern movements could use some sharpening including:

Lack of coordination and balance
Difficulty reading
Exhibiting learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
Saying things backwards

The suggestion is that you can reprogram your nervous system and strengthen the connection between the right and left sides of your brain using cross-crawl exercises They conclude with brief instructions on how to practise this exercise:

Stand with your spine erect and arms at your sides.
On an inhale, raise your right arm up. At the same time you raise your right arm, lift your left leg, bending at the knee.
On an exhale, lower both the right arm and left leg.
On an inhale, raise your left arm up. At the same time, lift your right leg, bending at the knee.
On an exhale, lower both the left arm and right leg.
Full range of motion, not speed, is the most important component of this exercise. The higher you lift your arms and legs, the more you are energizing the brain development becomes, encouraging it to store new, more effective patterns of movement.

Use the breath to help you slow down the movements. Slower movements require more precise control, which delivers greater benefits, faster. Experts recommend 200 to 500 repetitions a day, but it is important to stop at the first sign of fatigue.

I don’t know about you but I can see that this might be helpful. I think I get it. I even tried to practise the exercise as described above (but 200 to 500 repetitions a day! Can’t see that happening!). If we want to make positive strides forward in brain conditioning and motor functioning, we’ve got to think and act like babies. Yes, babies. Perhaps not quite the cute and cuddly kind but babies all the same. Really. Big. Babies.


Post-script. I’m up to 4 repetitions today. Wwwaaaaaaaaaaa !!! 😦