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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Paralysis Agitans: The Bombs of the Past Aren't Dead; They're Not Even Past

In our Parkinson’s lives, we are often asked about family history of disease. If you’re like me, you aren’t sure where the fault in genetics began. Sure, I knew about my Gram’s Alzheimer’s, but with 2 grandfathers that shuffled off this mortal coil before Roger Maris eclipsed Babe Ruth’s single season home run record (1961), my parents didn’t even know their fathers, so what would I know about them?

My mom’s dad lived longer than my dad’s dad. He passed when she was 8. My dad’s dad died before he was 2. When my mom’s dad died, a lot of connections to his side of the family vanished as her mom’s family was Catholic and he was Jewish. Had he lived, he would have probably converted. However, life happens, and well…. yeah.

The end of our connections to his side of the family vanished when my sister, at age 5 or so, asked my aunt Esther if she was drunk on Cold Duck at a family get-together. Most likely, she was, but she took exception to the comment, and I don’t remember much of Aunt Esther after that.

In the last week, however, my great grandfather Lewis, who I never heard of, came back to this English teacher with a vocabulary lesson and a premonition of the end of days.

Paralysis Agitans.

Well, fellow Parkies, here’s a history and vocabulary lesson. This is the former name for our condition. If you’re curious about what it was thought of in older days, here’s an excerpt from JAMA.
From his birth in October 1869 to his death in August 1928, Lewis, whose life had many different spellings and numbers attached to it from the census workers of the day, had a bomb in his body that was waiting to go off. At some point, like what happened to us or someone we love, it went off, and WHAM! Like with our lives, it was just waiting to cause havoc and destroy the central computer in our heads. See, that's what it's programmed to do, and it does it so effectively.

For a lot of Parkies, we wonder what made this condition we have happen. We look to the environment, and we look to nature. There’s a lot of interesting hypotheses without getting into conspiracy nonsense or BS reporting. One of these has to be what made us into us. Brain damage like Muhammad Ali? An immune problem that sends our body to fight itself? Something in mass-produced food? Could it be the mold in the areas we live?

No matter what, it’s a bomb going through time to find the next generation to keep living. See, that's what life does in replicating itself to go on without end.

Extinction is anathema.

Who in my family will be the next to find it’s a part of his or her life? I'm stop 2 in the journey. Who's up next?

And so I ask:

If there was a way to change the DNA code to make the genetic programming not give us this pile of fecal contaminants, should we find it and play God?

Are we ethically responsible to do this if we know we can stop this?

Sitting around thinking about a history of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s in my family, I wonder when the next bomb will erupt in the life of someone I love. Then again, with the time between dopamine loss in PD and symptoms presenting, it may already be detonating the framework of the stadiums of my loved ones.

No matter what thoughts you have about what's abovae, there’s a very specific person I worry about right now. I’m living vicariously through a lot of his youthful antics, hijinks, and accomplishments. It scares the bejesus out of me to think that someday…

Enough of that thought. It’s just too sad to think about.


For those of you who are interested in the idea of “The Terrorist inside My Husband’s Brain” (as written by Robin Williams' former wife Susan Schneider Williams), check out this article. It’s one of the best I ever read about situations like ours (Williams had Lewy Body Dementia).


Most definitely. 

Today is day 1 of Parkinson's Awareness Month. That said, for some of us, that month is every month, and that day (April 11th) is every day

Keep the faith. Never stop believing in the power of scientists and researchers to go Jack Bauer and stop the bomb once and for all.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out my Parkinson's page 

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