Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kickstarting your brain when you have Parkinson's

By Dina Harris

One of the most difficult things about having Parkinson’s disease is dealing with your brain when it “freezes.” The best way to picture what “freezing” looks like is to recall the scene in the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” when we first meet the Tin Man crying out for his “oil can, oil can.”

The “oil” going directly into a PD brain is the medicine—such as carbodopa-levodopa ( brand name Sinemet). Just as important, the “oil” can also be an arsenal of clever tricks which help the body to move even when the brain will not cooperate.

When I freeze, I need to find a way to start moving again. Fast. Because there is always a risk of falling.

When I move, I try very hard to stay in the “now” – and I also try hard to keep track of where my feet are every minute. This is essential no matter where I am. To get my brain to move forward with the rest of me, I have learned various techniques from several wonderful people on how to “kick start” myself into movement.

You can think of it as me sweet talking those reluctant grey cells of mine into doing something they insist they cannot do. I am talking about pushing through the effect of “freezing” which happens to me when my meds start to wear off. It is literally an “on/off” situation—and often this happens to me entering or exiting a doorway.

Picture an elevator doorway—or door to a subway car—or—an automatic entrance or exit door at the supermarket! Yipes! I can hold up foot traffic there for what seems like an eternity.

I learned “kick starts” from Georgia Riedel, an excellent physical therapist at Columbia Presbyterian’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, located at East 60th St. in >New York City. I have taught it to my family and friends. When I am out alone on the street or in a store, or on a plane or in a public ladies room, I have taught total strangers how to help me as well. Sometimes if I look as though I am having some difficulty, strangers will ask me if they can help. If I need help, I have (finally) learned to ask for it, and explain what I need.

Here’s how it works: The person helping me faces me and takes both my hands in his or hers. Then, that person walks backwards as I walk forwards. My husband Daniel has added this line: “then we have to sing.” The singing is very important. Because if you pick a tune with a peppy steady beat, it is the rhythm of the music that gives you the “kick start and can, sometimes keep you going.”

To watch a short video in which I demonstrate how the “kick start” technique works, go to www.YouTube.com and type in Dina Harris and Parkinson's.

I would like to extend my appreciation and thanks to two enthusiastic young people who helped me produce this video. The videographer/director, Jefferson Thomas,18, of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, is a senior at NausetRegional High School. Acting in the video segment is Christopher Thomas, 16, a junior at the same school. These talented young men have been making movies, it seems, since nursery school, and were great fun and an enormous help.

Dina Harris, a playwright, lives on Cape Cod. This piece appeared first in the Holistic Health blogsite at TimesUnion.com.

1 comment:

the redhead said...

Great article! I'm sending it along to my grandmother, who has Parkinsons. I think we'll pop in the Wizard of Oz next time I visit!