Going Green with Parkinson’s Disease

I was in the process of reorganizing my life. You might ask what I’d want to do that for. I should just live for the here. For the now. After all, I do have PD and by the time I actually do get organized, I may have wasted precious time that could have been spent doing something more creative. Like eating chocolate or jumping in puddles with my grandson.

For me, I’m finding that the more organized I become, the better quality of life I am experiencing.

In my endeavors, I have tried to make a resolution to ‘go green’ in my cleaning as much as possible.

I was raised on bleach, Ajax, and ammonia for cleaning around the house. Each year I have gotten a tad bit more aggressive with my cleaning solutions, believing they will ward of infectious and dangerous diseases, illnesses, and cooties. And their potency as the fumes suck up the remainder of my brain cells seems to get stronger as well.

The other day I was washing the shower. I had my trusty supplies. A sponge, my precious bottle of bleach, Pine Sol, and an almost empty bottle of Ajax. I was armed and ready. Now, my neurologist has repeatedly assured me, upon my multiple inquiries, that I did not get Parkinson’s from cleaning the bathroom in this way. I don’t think he knows just what I actually use…

So, I sprayed the shower walls with a bleach and water mixture and then began scrubbing them. Every crevice, every crack, every corner. Clean, clean, clean. My eyes began to water. Then they began to sting. Then they burned and I was practically crying as they were weeping profusely.

Then it hit me.

I can’t smell this stuff.

If you have Parkinson’s disease, you know first hand or are aware that your sense of smell can be affected. Well, here I was cleaning the shower with some majorly high potent cleaning solutions and practically dying and not knowing it.

Needless to say, it actually terrified me. In a good way.

That night I Googled “bleach versus vinegar” and you know what (maybe you do, but I drag my feet when it comes to new things in the cleaning department), bleach is highly over-rated and vinegar is highly under-rated. There is, naturally, a debate between the two being the better cleaner, but the following is what I learned.

After reading up on vinegar, I decided to try a popular solution for cleaning showers that has been circulating as nothing less than a magnificent, miraculous substitute. You use one cup of boiling vinegar and add one cup of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid, mixed together in a spray bottle. Spray it on the surface to be cleaned (tiled surfaces, shower doors, etc.). This is where the directions differ. Some say leave it for a half hour and then rinse. Some say to rinse right away. I ran a sponge over the interior of the shower after covering the walls and and then rinsed right away. My shower has never been so squeaky clean and I could breath through the entire process without sticking my nose up to the window screen and gasping for air every thirty seconds and watching brain cells float away as I exhaled.

What’s this got to do with PD? As a person with Parkinson’s disease, you need all the brain power you’ve got. Switch to green cleaning. Also, it’s so much easier on the body and for those who have mobility issues, it’s pure genius to just be able to use a spray bottle and rinse.

Medtronic’s Deep Brain Stimulator Rep – A Help in Time of Need

Well, I’m thankful for my neurologist, Dr. Eric Lee, MD, and I’m thankful for my neurosurgeon, Matthew Miller, MD, but if I were to label a hero from yesterday’s experience of having my DBS battery replaced, the kudos, accolades, honors and more would have to go to my Medtronic’s rep, Blake Wilson, for Medtronic’s Deep Brain Stimulation Replacement Battery.

Here’s why…

Scheduled for an eleven o’clock surgery, it was bumped to ten o’clock. That was bumped to a 1 o’clock, which lastly became a four o’clock surgery.

In the midst of waiting, unbeknownst to me, Blake had been up since, (most likely), 4 a.m or better. He was coming form Portland, via a six o’clock flight, to bring my new battery. However, due to icy conditions, the airport had shut down completely.  So he went back to the parking lot and started his car, turned on the heater, merged onto Hwy. 5 to begin his drive to Southern Oregon. He walked into my pre-op room at 3 p.m.

I didn’t know the reps personally came to the surgeries. I had never met them before any of my other three DBS surgeries. Each experience is a little different, I suppose.

He introduced himself while the nurse continued prepping me by attempting to place the IV. She was on her fifth prick on the opposite side in which my battery would be placed. (My veins tend to roll, hence the many pricks I go through for any IV inserts or blood draws). And I was dehydrated for not having any liquids for almost 20 hours. That doesn’t help in trying to find veins.

Blake made himself comfortable and settled into a seat next to my husband. He told a bit about his drive. Meanwhile, the nurse decided to give up on the right hand and wrist and go for the left side. As she made her first prick (the most painful thus far), out of the blue Blake asked me what my favorite ice cream was. At this point the nurse stopped and looked up, thinking about her favorite ice cream and then started prick number two. At that time Blake asked if I preferred hot fudge or chocolate syrup and at that point the nurse found a vein and I happily answered Jamoca Almond Fudge and hot fudge. And yes, the distraction helped me not to focus on the pain.

The Med rep then began to explain about the new battery. It was going to be a rechargeable (my old one wasn’t) and would last 9-12 years (my old one 3-4). My Movement Disorder Specialist, Dr. Anthony Santiago, MD, MDS preferred the Medtronic battery/stimulator as opposed to the St. Jude battery/stimulator which my ‘interim’ neurologist preferred. I will be starting to see my MDS again after the first of the year.  I have been under his care for 11 out of the 13 years since my diagnosis (and he knows my brain better than anyone else). After discussing it with my husband and my neurosurgeon not having a preference, we went with Medtronic.

And I am so grateful we did, if only for these very large reasons, which I was unaware of  prior to this surgery:d

  • The St. Jude stimulator is considered as the DBS ‘shiny, new toy’, as Blake pointed out. And though they are good, they have only been in use 2-3 years, as opposed to Medtronic’s good track record of over 20 years.
  • Medtronic voids all warranties for their DBS implanted wires should the patient choose to change manufactures for the battery/stimulator unit. (This is reason enough to stick with Medtronic for a battery replacement.)
  • Medtronic is currently the only DBS manufacturer that allows you to have an MRI.

These are all extremely important issues to consider when choosing a new DBS implant/battery or a replacement.

Eventually I was taken  to surgery and it was later, nearly 6 pm, shortly after waking, when Blake poked his head around the door to check in on me. With the same winsome attitude and smile, he checked the unit settings, made sure everything was working as it should be and bid farewell.

So, what makes Blake Wilson of Medtronic my ‘hero’? He came at the right time (even though he felt he was late, due to the weather). He took a physically painful situation (trying to find a vein) and created a yummy distraction. He was personable, very knowledgeable, and represented his company well. And… he may have saved my life down the road by sharing vital information every DBS patient should know,  in regards to their equipment.

All to say, round four of my DBS surgery experiences went well, thanks especially this time to Blake Wilson of Medtronic. You do your company proud.

Note: Blake also shared that Medtronic is currently working on a rechargeable battery replacement that will have a life span of up to 30 years. Woah dude!

2017 Gift List for People with Parkinson’s Disease

In previous years, I have compiled a Christmas list for Parkinson’s patients. Some of the most popular items have been terrycloth robes to dry off in when we just don’t have the strength or our balance is wavering. Also, satin pajamas makes turning over in bed so much easier.

This is an old favorite that I thank God for each day… an electric toothbrush! Who knew that someday a task like brushing your teeth would be so ridiculously difficult? It doesn’t have to be.

Yoga Toes are gel toe stretchers and separators for instant therapeutic relief for your feet and who, with PD, wouldn’t want to try some curling toe relief?

When I attended a Parkinson’s conference one summer, it was asked of a panel made up of doctors, people with PD, and others, “What is the best way to exercise?” and the doctor on that panel answered – get a dog. Yes, get a dog. Get a dog that will get you outside. Get a dog that will get you walking regularly, which is one of the best things a person with PD can be do.

A few suggestions for this year:

A reader offered the suggestion of a heated blanket throw. She says it helps her person with PD have “a more comfortable evening. They have been well worth the 40.00 investment… .”

A list of gadgets for people with PD can be found here, but I think the following is my all-time favorite:

Tickets of Love

These have always been a favorite among grandparents, given by grandchildren or to a parent from their child. It is a booklet of ‘coupons’ that is filled with little ‘gifts’ the giver (child or adult) wants to give the recipient. For example:

This coupon is good for one free hug.
This coupon is good for one free car wash.

You remember.

But how about kicking it up a notch for your very favorite person with Parkinson’s? Still a little booklet but filled with coupons relative to and helpful for that PD’er in your life. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

This coupon is good for a free foot rub or…

  • a free hair wash and style.
  • a free nail coloring session.
  • an afternoon walk.
  • a picnic lunch.
  • the reading of their favorite book out loud.
  • an afternoon ride to the ocean (lake, park, etc.).

Whatever you choose, with some thought and creativity, I’m sure it will be received with a grateful heart.