This, the 25th day of Feb. 1986, is the third anniversary of my move from the Essex Nursing Home, Essex, On, Can to my Essex County Housing Authority home, a senior’s apartment.
Via this factual condensed story, I want to give thanks in celebration with a message somewhat like “Buyer Beware” – in this day of “Miracle drugs” one must evaluate carefully the chemical answer as all drugs are not for all people.
I was a novelty when I came here in more ways than one: a wrong way Corrigan (seldom does a nursing home patient leave to maintain an apartment); a novelty arriving with a small television, one fork, knife and spoon and little else; to some who had seen me “Before and After” I was not only a novelty but a “Miracle”.
At my first breakfast in the nursing home, folks were conversing in shocked tones about the large gas explosion in Essex that morning. I looked and felt like I had blown in with that wreckage – hands swollen, crippled, almost useless; walk limited, slow shuffling; balance poor, lurching; involuntary shaking of right hand when standing or sitting; right foot pawing like a horse when standing (my sister not understanding had stabbed me with “Do you want the music on?”; speech interrupted by a blankness (word loss); writing difficult, almost illegible; falling backwards; worst of all was the dread facial mask (my face as stiff as my body made an effort to emulate a smile appear grotesque).
I arrived here at the apartment on a Friday, a smile on my face, a song in my heart and a faith that God would engineer everything for me. He did, in a marvelous way, His wisdom and timing perfect. Two lady friends from Windsor arrived laden with card table, two lawn chairs (loaners), gifts of odds and ends and sandwiches. I upended my small suitcase for the third chair and lunch never tasted better. He knew with five years out of circulation I needed to feel like an entity again – He took care of that via accomplishments of mine being honoured that evening and next, sort of like a re-birth! On Monday, some beautiful furniture and small appliances, etc, arrived, free gratis – a lady, unknown to me and I to her had died Friday, requesting only that her possessions be appreciated; they were, what came here!
1978 saw this story emerging with involuntary movements of my right knee, perplexing and disturbing. My internist added heart pills to heart pills. At my family doctor’s, after a long wait in the waiting room (my knee was like a rebellious child when sitting) I blurted out “I can’t stand it any longer!”. It was to the hospital then, but as he was to be away my internist would be in charge. I was jumped from two diabetic pills a day (which I had taken for several years) to fourty-four units of insulin. Now, my mind also was in a turbulent and rebellious state – always independent, I would now need a nurse to administer insulin each day as my eyes and hand tremor would preclude me injecting myself. The Special Services at the hospital had all the answers – but they weren’t my answers because of the completely overlooked real devastating problem. As my stay, nearly a month, was worsening my condition, I left — it would now take four years of intense trying and with the help of three bars to get in and out of the bathtub unaided, though it had been no problem when I entered the hospital.
Back home I went to a Senior’s card party close by – I couldn’t sit and my partner said, “I think you have Parkinson’s disease.” Shortly after, a lady guest on a call-in radio program was giving advice on beneficial colours and also an answer to one question. On a million to one chance (it seemed), I got on a line, though not my habit and said the one word required “East” as to the direction of my house in Windsor, ON. I asked “Will I be making a move soon?”. I had lived in the same spot for about fifty-five years, but everything seemed to be in limbo at this time. She replied: “Yes, you will be in the hot summer months, July or August – you need to see a neurologist!” It was then, I think, late May or early June.
I hurried to my family doctor and though I had cancelled an earlier appointment with a neurologist, I now asked for another. It was with a very thorough Oriental doctor. He conducted tests and thought it might be early Parkinson’s but left the medication to my family doctor as an earlier ulcer condition might cause bleeding of the stomach.
I was by this time leaning on my daughter to drive me places and to push me around our mall in a wheelchair. Taking care of business was difficult, like standing in line at the bank (one day a friend noted and took my place in the line until she reached the wicket, (one of the niceties we remember), writing a cheque was a small trauma as was every little decision, even selection of groceries.
No one counseled me, but I expected, with Parkinson’s, to get steadily worse so I decided to enter an institution. Like a zombie, I started to dispose of my prized possessions via give-away or garbage. I signed a General Power-of-Attorney to a family member, at the worst possible time in Windsor for a house sale (sale a disaster, a give-away)! How untrue to form, I , who had always been so independent, bucking life’s storms, on my own at fifteen, married at sixteen, now signing away my rights to govern myself, to make my own decisions! I, who dearly loved and prized “Things”, especially old things, sentimental things, etc., who had worked so hard for many of them, now blowing them all away as with a puff of a dandelion! I locked the door of my home for the last time in mid-August in sweltering weather as the radio lady had said. I chose the Essex Nursing Home, about eighteen miles from my home. It would be a six month wait, three at my daughter’s and three at my son’s.
At my son’s, a friend of his, an orthopedic surgeon came to the house one night to look at my hands. He said “I wouldn’t operate on those hands, it’s like gout, but it isn’t gout, what medications are you on?” As I listed them, he stopped me with “That might do it” a water pill, I believe. That was my first inkling of a medication problem.
Born in 1905, I had now accumulated quite a variety of afflictions and complaints, some diabetic related, as I arrived at the nursing home with quite a collection of daily medications which I continued to take along with a heavy dose of Parkinson’s pills which I had postponed taking due to fear of bleeding. There were trial ones, too , now, plus the occasional ones, antibiotics, etc. My allergies to certain drugs, food products had always been a problem, as they were here. One day my lady doctor said “That stomach pill you are taking at mealtimes can make your Parkinson’s worse, in fact it gave a man Parkinson’s” . I promptly quit the pill but my hietal hernia let me know in no uncertain terms. Her was my second inkling of a medication problem. I reasoned – if the stomach pill may have caused the Parkinson’s then perhaps, I would not know need the Parkinson’s pill. I quit them against the doctor’s advice. Then I read of a lady who went through an awesome ordeal with Parkinson’s including mental illness, etc., as a result of a tranquilizer drug. A third inkling. I sent for Parkinson’s information. I reasoned if the lack of a chemical in my brain was causing my trouble, then perhaps some of my medication was causing that lack. I quit, on my own, practically all my pills, almost cold turkey.
In the meantime, my doctor reduced the insulin gradually to zero, put me back on diabetic pills, then reduced them to zero. I went from chubby to skinny (114 lbs). I had improved my walking, by pushing the wheelchair patients, my stiffness lessened. I had taken on the Presidency of the Resident Council and that kept me very busy. However, I now began to feel like a caged bird and wanted out!
One day, I started on foot into the outside world, scared stiff! God sent an angel (in human form) to walk with me and after that it came easier. I checke dthe town out and decided to stay here as Windsor would mean a high-rise. My application for an apartment here was not taken seriously at first, but I persisted and I’m sure my Heavenly Father put in a word for me too, so here I am, Bless Them!
Though the Parkinson’s has left no Visible sign it did leave its mark in various ways. My reversal of the disease was fortunate as left too long it is irreversible. Some might say it hap-in-chance, this circuitous route to recovery, but I’m sure He had the route planned.
The transitions haven’t been easy: institutionalized care, various adaptations to an apartment (the first in my life); adapting to new doctor, dentist, stores, services; remembering a sea of new faces, names. On a walk of discovery one Autumn day, leaves falling, I thought, this isn’t real “Brigadoon?”. Gathering the essentials for comfort and the unbelievable number of small things needed sapped the energy. As a stroke victim (suspected small ones in Windsor), I had to learn the simplest things over again.
After sharing in the nursing home with an undefined number of people, now my most precious tangible, banal possession is my TOILET! Intangible? Well, even one’s smile can be taken away and given back – Praise Him!
I hold no resentment toward my former Windsor doctors whom I held in high regard, or the hospital whose collective alertness could have saved me from all this upheaval, loss, suffering, trauma, in which should have been the best years of my life. Just a case of a sensitive system acting horrendously to calculated cures. I suspect, in future, “Computer doctors” will quickly tap out the answers, but I hope our “Great Physician” keeps an eye open , too.
Here I escape the medical production line and my physician is cognizant and most tolerant of my chemical sensitivities – on reflection, the clock ticking, I felt a sense of urgency to record this story and hopefully, others soon as an obligation to Him, my Saviour.
The above is written by my paternal Grandmother. It was given to me by my father and I share it with you and family. I have tried to keep the punctuation and spelling as Grandma had it. Feel free to comment, or add information. Grandma was someone that I admired. These stories were written by hand, through multiple drafts, and then she had someone type them for her. I wonder how her writing would have been in this day and age with the advantages of wordsmithing provided by software such as MicrosoftWord.