Parkinson’s While Working


My Parkinson’s Disease was under control as long as I took my medications as directed. Occasionally I would be too busy and forget my lunchtime meds. My tremors would start, my anxiety levels would go up, and my shaking would get worse. I kept quiet about having Parkinson’s because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I was a teacher and I wanted to I continue teaching.
There was another problem. After years of sports, as a player and coach, arthritis had destroyed my knees. As a teacher I still could have managed if I had times to sit down and rest. Unfortunately I was assigned a cart instead of a classroom. During the plan times of other high school teachers, I would push my cart around, going from room to room. I would teach the subject assigned to me and leave for the next room. There was no sitting down. My knees ached as I struggled to push the cart or even to walk.
My enthusiasm was dwindling. One teacher privately asked me, “Did you have a stroke?”when she saw me stumble one day. “No,” I replied but I decided not to elaborate.
“I hear you have Parkinson’s,” my principal said at an after school meeting. “That’s a problem and I’m sure you’ll want to leave on a good note.” “Where did you hear that?” I questioned. In confidence I had only told one other person, an administrator in the main office. The principal told me her source. “I’m good,” I replied. “With medication my PD is under control.” She said she was not convinced. She would write that in my file.
For the next year and a half I continued with my push cart duties. Since I did not have an assigned classroom I often told my fellow teachers that I was “homeless”. I participated in fire drills, tornado drills, and all activities that students were required to do. My knees continued to get worse. Finally I chose to have one knee replaced during the school year. I returned six weeks later with one titanium knee and finished the last two months of school. I had decided to retire because the agony of walking took away much of the joy of teaching.
Three weeks after school was out, the other knee was replaced. Six weeks after the second operation I was mobile again, although still recovering. My Parkinson’s symptoms had also improved because my stress levels were down. Even though I had retired and my income had dropped, I was more relaxed. It was a new start to the life opening before me.

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