Strange as it may seem, I only recently connected two experiences from my younger days to the awareness aspect of our wellness challenge. The challenge is about increasing awareness of Parkinson’s Disease. Now that I reflect on them, those experiences probably primed me with an awareness of neuro-degenerative diseases in general, and Parkinson’s Disease in particular. Today’s blog is about the first of those experiences.

So what happened? Well, the first experience came in the form of a part-time job which I did for several months one summer. An older friend of my parents approached me to see if I would consider being a night-attendant for her husband once a week on weekends. She explained that her husband had Parkinson’s disease, and she briefly described the symptoms. My job would be to come to the house overnight and look after her husband for that night if he needed anything. There were a number of different people who came through the week, but, looking back, I realize that this lady essentially cared for her husband all the days during the week. The other attendants and I were basically spelling her off for the night so she could sleep.

I have very fond memories of that time, brief though it was. Every evening, she would have snacks for me, and books and magazines (she had been a teacher). And I became a good friend of instant coffee! I read about Parkinson’s and as I got to know this gentleman, I caught a glimpse of the battle which was slowly advancing and stealing from this man and his wife. To that point in my life, if I had seen a person struggling with mobility issues, I just assumed that it also affected their mind. I felt uncomfortable and more or less avoided contact. The time I spent with this wonderful couple – her in the evenings and early mornings, and him periodically through the night – completely unraveled my assumption.

The gentleman experienced tremors and muscle weakness, and his speech had been affected. He could talk, but mostly just a word or two at a time, and it was sometimes difficult for me to understand. But I suddenly realized one night as he called for me that, even with all the different night attendants, he never forgot my name. Not once. Not ever. He was sharp as a tack.

Even though I didn’t fully appreciate the experience at the time, I look back now and I realize that it was truly a gift given to me by this wonderful woman and her husband. I had the privilege of making life more comfortable for two people who needed my help. I will never forget that.