Information on Parkinson’s

Mary Ann lay down after lunch for a nap.  The moment she is settled in bed, I start doing tasks inside or outside, confident that she is very likely to sleep for a couple of hours without stirring.  Not so this afternoon.

When I came back in, her eyes were open.  She said that her esophagus hurt and she needed a Tums.  It seemed to be hurting more than usual.  She used the bathroom and had a fainting spell immediately after I put the Tums in her mouth.

The pattern we use is that Tums comes first.  If it does not help, a Nitro pill comes next.  If that hasn’t eliminated the pain in five to ten minutes, another Nitro pill is taken.  She has to be lying down for that since Nitro pills lower blood pressure dramatically.  Since she had just fainted, it was apparent that her BP was already fairly low.

Hospice Nurse Emily came to the door for her weekly visit as we were waiting for the Tums to work.  Mary Ann said that it seemed to be helping.  The new twist was that when Emily checked her oxygen saturation level (98%, very good) and heart rate with the finger monitor, Mary Ann’s heart rate was 111, almost double her normal, which is about 59 or 60.  Nurse Emily took her blood pressure, which was in a reasonable range for Mary Ann, 150/96.  It is always a puzzle that it can be that high just minutes after she has fainted from a drop in blood pressure.  She had stood up and sat down when the fainting happened, but she was lying down when Emily took her BP. Blood pressure usually measures higher when lying down than when sitting or standing for anyone..

Nurse Emily measured her heart rate a second time, and it had come down to 85.  After Emily left, Mary Ann said it was hurting again.  I gave her a nitro pill.  Her heart rate was over a hundred.  After a little less than ten minutes, her chest/esophagus was still hurting.  I gave her a second Nitro pill.  About ten minutes later I checked again.  By that time she said the pain had subsided.  I took her blood pressure at that time and it was 110/50.  As expected, the nitroglycerin had lowered her BP.

The concern, of course, is an unexplained increase in her resting heart rate.  I just pulled out the three pages of information on Cipro.  One of the bullet points under “Other serious side effects of Cipro include” is “Serious heart rhythm changes”.   The next sentence is, “Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have a change in your heart beat (a fast or irregular heartbeat), or if you faint.”  Okay, Nurse Emily was here when the heartrate was almost double her normal.  It did not seem to strike her as significant.  As is so with anyone who has been a Caregiver for a while, I never give away responsibilty for Mary Ann’s medical care.  I will check with Mary Ann periodically tomorrow.  If there is any discomfort I will check her pulse.  If it is racing, I will call Hospice to check with their doctor about how to proceed.  Since Mary Ann’s and our intention is that she not be resuscitated (those words are hard to see appear on this page as I write), we have to be thoughtful in how we proceed.  (Mary Ann has not yet had a chance to sign the DNR form in front of a non-family witness yet — not sure whether procrastination or denial on my part.)

She has been fine the rest of the day and is now in bed, hopefully, for the night.  She went to Bible study this morning and, according to her report, stayed awake.  She had lamented when she first got up this morning that she sleeps so much during the group time, that it seemed fruitless to attend.  She then admitted that getting out with people was good, and that was the only regular time with others she had.

I had an especially good time during the Bible Study,  I had a chance to talk for a time with a cluster of the staff with whom I worked at the church from which I retired.  I realize just how much I miss having those folks to talk with.  When there was some experience or encounter, one of little consequence in the grand scheme of things, it was nice to have some place to report whatever it was.

I headed over to the coffee shop (of course, PT’s) and ran into one of the owners I have known for many years.  As usual, he had just returned from another part of the world where coffee is grown, this time somewhere on the continent of Africa.  He is always entertaining.  I followed that with a visit to the Wild Bird House.  There I could review the experience with the Mallards yesterday and hear some stories about rahabbing ducks.  I didn’t realize that bullfrogs ate ducklings — not a pleasant thought, but interesting to know. Melody rehabs the birds, and Todd is a sort of Renaissance man, who plays in a group and teaches guitar, creates websites from scratch, and builds decks, as well as running the store with Melody. He and I talked deck issues — my bowing crosspiece.

We headed for the store, loaded the car with gas and the back seat with half gallons of ice cream, as well as Mary Ann’s Sesame Chicken dinner.  That is the lunch following which the problems began.  She had the same for supper without any discomfort, at least yet.

This afternoon, while Mary Ann was having problems and then napped, I took on the task of taking up the Snap-Lock mesh flooring in the bathroom to spread out on the driveway, spray with a fungicide, clean with a broom and bathroom cleaner wih bleach in it.  It is  a dreaded job.  The ceramic tile in the bathroom beneath the mesh gets the same treatment.  Tomorrow, Kristie will come and do her monthly cleaning.  This time she will also clean the ceramic tile now that it is uncovered. (The mesh is on the floor to avoid Mary Ann being hurt badly when she falls.)

This evening, Volunteer Jolene came to stay with Mary Ann.  I used the time to do a few things here at the house and then headed to Dairy Queen to take advantage of this week’s special — buy any size Blizzard at full price and get the same or smaller sized second Blizzard for 25 cents.  They are celebrating the 25th birthday of the Blizzard.  We are happy to help them celebrate.  After eating the Blizzards, I headed out again to check on getting a roll shade for the east end of the deck.

It was a full day for both of us. The central concern is Mary Ann’s heart rate.  Since she had a number of silent heart attacks that we missed seven or eight years ago, I do not take this lightly.  Those heart attacks were masked by what we thought was esophagus pain.  It certainly never gets dull around here.

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I have to wonder how long this has been going on.  I wondered about it right after coming home from the hospital last November.  There were none of the usual symptoms that were different from the symptoms of the problems already diagnosed and being treated.  It seems unlikely to me that such an infection could have been going on since November, although there is a chronic version of this diagnosis.

Hospice Nurse Emily phoned shortly after lunch time today to report that Mary Ann’s urine had tested positive for a Urinary Tract Infection [UTI].  In fact it is apparently a fairly serious one.  She reported that the doctor had insisted that Mary Ann manage to get in both the morning and evening doses yet today.  We have now done so and Mary Ann is in bed.

The medication is an anti-biotic called Cipro.  It is a strong anti-biotic whose sheets of warnings and side-effects (three pages of small print) read like a Stephen King novel.  The good news is that the Hospice doctor has a current list of all Mary Ann’s meds and a chart that includes all her medical problems.  The Hospice Staff have regular Team meetings on each patient.  It is a fairly small Hospice organization, serving only about thirty patients.  We regularly get a copy of the Team meetings.  Each report includes hand-written notes by each member of the team, including the doctor.

It certainly is a challenge to discern the signs of a UTI when every one of them matches something that is normal for someone with Parkinson’s Disease, Heart Disease, Parkinson’s Disease Dementia (a Dementia with Lewy Bodies), Hypertension, Orthostatic Hypotension, Chronic Kidney Disease, Hypothyroidsim, Urinary and Bowel Incontinence, a stroke victim who has also had a life-threatening bout with Pneumonia.

Here is an interesting item on the list of those symptoms that are often indicators of a Urinary Tract Infection:  “Mental changes or confusion (in the elderly, these symptoms often are the only signs of a UTI).”  Imagine trying to catch that symptom in someone with a Lewy Body Dementia that has as its central symptom, mental confusion that comes and goes.

On the Medline Plus web site from which I got the information in this post there is a list circumstances that increase the likelihood of getting a UTI.

The following also increase your chances of developing a UTI:

  • Diabetes
  • Advanced age (especially people in nursing homes)
  • Problems emptying your bladder (urinary retention) because of brain or nerve disorders
  • A tube called a urinary catheter inserted into your urinary tract
  • Bowel Incontinence
  • Enlarged Prostate, narrow urethra, or anything that blocks the flow of urine
  • Kidney stones
  • Staying still (immobile) for a long period of time (for example, while you are recovering from a hip fracture)
  • Pregnancy

Mary Ann is not pregnant, does not have a prostate gland or kidney stones, nor is she diabetic, but all the rest fit to one degree or another.

I will admit that this diagnosis seems like good news in the sense that it provides a glimmer of hope for some positive change.  Mary Ann declined pretty dramatically after her hospital stay (during which a catheter was used).  It would be wonderful to be surprised by improvements coming with progress in treating the UTI.

Mary Ann (and I) got a pretty good night’s sleep last night.  She seemed to be doing somewhat better today but still had some confusion periodically.  There was a little more of the fainting and bowel activity.  She had a nap of a couple of hours during the mid-day.

We had a special treat today.  This afternoon Pastor Mike and Judy came to visit for a few hours.  They are warm and caring, as well as strong and intelligent people who have made their mark for great good in a central city area in Kansas City, Kansas that has had all the struggles that often come with older city neighborhoods.  I have tremendous respect for them as they have stayed engaged with and present in that community for decades.  Without fanfare or tangible rewards they have continued to serve in creative ways people sometimes gasping for air just to keep from drowning in a sea of failed attempts at trying to get by on their own.

We have known Mike and Judy since the early 1970’s.  I was a few years ahead of Mike at the Seminary we both attended in St. Louis.  Mary Ann and I have  listed Mike as the requested preacher at our funerals.  He and Judy have known Mary Ann since before the Parkinson’s.  As well as the personal fondness we have for them, they share with us an understanding of church that is deeply rooted in some core faith issues.  We have great conversations.  Judy especially made a point of talking with Mary Ann one on one, so that Mary Ann’s thoughts and words were not lost in the energetic talking of three others.

After spending time at the dining room table talking with Mike and Judy, we moved on to the deck.  It was a glorious day here, about 70 degrees and abundant sunshine.  As we sat on the deck, the pair of Mallard Ducks wandered back and forth, in and out of the waterfall, munching at the ground level platform feeder a few times.  They just sort of hung out with us, maybe twenty feet away.  The birds were singing their spring songs probably meant to impress some potential or current mate.  At one point a black Grackle (with that shiny deep blue head), Blue Jay, Cardinal and bright yellow Goldfinch were in view at the same time in the branches or on the ground in the immediate area.  A couple of Robins were nearby also, as well as the Mallards.  It always strikes me that colors no designer in his/her right mind would put together in the same space, work very well when in proximity in a natural setting. It would seem there might be some other artist at work weaving colors together.

Yesterday, our system here seemed on the verge of becoming impossible to sustain.  A good night’s sleep, some time during Mary Ann’s nap to get a few sort of recreational chores done (filling bird feeders, more weeding in the waterfall area), relaxed time visiting with good friends, has pulled us from the verge of impossible back to possible.  Since we live in a fairly small space between possible and impossible, I will not venture a guess as to where we will be tomorrow.  We will deal with that when tomorrow becomes today. Speaking of which — it is time to go to bed.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Even at our age and in a wheel chair, Mary Ann is pretty.  Looking at those pictures of Mary Ann from the time before we started dating and pictures of her in our dating years and early marriage, I was reminded just how pretty she has been all her life.  No wonder I fell in love with her.  I am not so shallow as to have only looked at the surface.  Her personality has always been intriguing, exciting, unpredictable, entertaining and complex.  There has never been any pretense about who she is.

One of the things that jumped out in the pictures from earlier years was her bright smile.  That is one of the things that Parkinson’s steals from those whose lives it impacts.  Facial expressiveness diminishes.  Those pictures were poignant reminders of just how expressive and beautiful that face has been.  They also confirm and reinforce the image that still comes through when I see her.  It is a good thing when people grow old together.  These old bodies still contain young people.  When we grow old together, we can see past the old bodies to the young people living inside.

Mary Ann revealed that she was excited to have the chance to reconnect with her family.  It meant so much to her.  She has felt very disconnected after losing her Dad two weeks after we were married and two brothers, both when they reached the age of 51.  Her Mother has also been gone for many years.

The old pictures and conversation gave our two children a chance to discover more fully the family with which they have had little contact.  Their Cousin Diana and her Daughter Rachel provided through their presence and their stories about family a window into the other half of the gene pool from which our Children have emerged.

Mary Ann soaked it all in and responded as she could.  The night before last had been a tough one with multiple times up.  She crashed during lunch.  She could not hold her head up any longer as I tried to help her eat.  Finally, she gave in and decided to lie down.  After a long nap, she was able to interact and enjoy Diana, Rachel and our Children as they talked about and asked questions about the past.

Last night, Mary Ann went to bed and was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.  This morning, she was in exactly the position she was in when she fell asleep last night.  She had not moved a muscle, nor had she gotten up during the night to use the commode.

Our Daughter, Lisa, along with Husband, Denis, and the girls, Abigail and Ashlyn left for home early this morning.  Diana and Rachel were able to spend the day with us.  It was a good day, a little less intense and more relaxing.  We just spent the day getting to know each other better.

I had thought about giving them a quick tour of the area.  Mary Ann reminded me of the Tulip Festival at some spectacularly beautiful gardens at the edge of a lake on the other side of town.  The flowers provided clusters of vibrant colors, one after another, some more formal and symmetrical, others very natural with an asymmetry that was pleasing to the eye.  The weather was perfect, sunny, cool and clear.  The lake was sparkling and serene at the same time,  The gardens are filled with ponds and streams and waterfalls.

We moved on to travel west into the Flint Hills.  It would have been a crime to come this far and not see those rolling hills, prairie as it was hundreds of years ago.  Some areas were green with fresh grass growing.  During April comes the burn.  All the random seeds brought in by wind and wildlife germinate during the growing season and threaten to overpower the natural prairie grasses. In past centuries, buffalo fed on the grass until there was nothing left above ground. Roots extending fifteen to eighteen feet would assure that the native grasses returned the next spring.

On account of the decimated buffalo population, burning the foreign growth returns the hills to their pristine past.  Through the ashes soon burst the Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem and Indian Grass.  There is nothing like the contrast of that bright green emerging through the black ash cover.

The tour of the Flint Hills was a treat for me, and seemed to be so for Diana and Rachel.  We found our way to a little town called Paxico.  There is no grocery or gas station there, at least that I have found.  The buildings contain lots of old things for sale, ranging from flea market fare to expensive antiques. It is not a contrived and artificial imitation of an old town just for tourist consumption.  It is the real deal.  There is an outlet there for the pottery made by the Potter who turned the dishes and bowl that Mary Ann uses.  We have other pieces, bowls and cups and pitchers.  The name is Jepson Pottery.  His studio is in Harveyville, Kansas.

Mary Ann was ready for ice cream when we left Paxico.  We had leftover Grasshopper and Mud pies from Baskin and Robbins for supper.  Mary Ann is in bed and, after a snack and some Tums, she seems to be sleeping.  Tomorrow is likely to be a recoup day.  Hopefully, she will have another restful night tonight.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

It has been a very long time since there was so much fainting in one day.   Anyone who is not okay with explicit talk about BM’s should probably pass on this post.  I was grateful for a three or four hour nap in the middle of the day and more grateful when the ordeal was over this evening and bedtime arrived.

I am a seasoned veteran in what I call waste management.  It is just part of helping someone who no longer can handle those duties on her own.  I am used to the fainting spells.  They no longer scare me.  It is when the two intertwine for all the hours she is awake that it calls into question my physical capacity to do this task.

I am not grossed out by it.  I am not pushed to a high level of frustration by it.  I am just tired and sore, grateful for a break from it now that she is in bed.  Yesterday, I mentioned that Mary Ann’s blood pressure was a very low normal when the Hospice Nurse took it.  I observed that resting blood pressure that low did not bode well for what might be so when she stands up for a while.

I meant to take her BP this morning, but did not remember to do so.  As a result, I am not sure yet about whether or not to start the Midodrine, which raises her BP and reduces the fainting but keeps her BP dangerously high.

Mary Ann got up fairly late today.  It was apparent from the morning trip to the bathroom that the fainting was a problem.  We managed to get her breakfast done.  Then the bathroom trips began.  She felt that she needed to go, but there was little production.  Each time she got on the stool, she fainted.  Each time she stood up from it she fainted.  My role, as I have mentioned before, is to hold her upper body back so that she does not fall forward off the stool.

She was fainting so much that she couldn’t even sit up in her chair when I got her back out into the living room.  I just took her into the bedroom and got her into bed.  She slept for three or four hours.

After she got up, I fed her lunch and the bathroom trips began in earnest.  There was more production during the afternoon.  Once down there would be a some activity.  Then I would pull her up, hold her up and do clean up, almost always including (sorry) getting out some that would not come on its own.  Then as that was going on, she would faint again.  Trying to get her into the sitting position when she is only partially conscious and holding herself stiff, takes all the strength I can muster.  The torso has some pretty powerful muscles.

Each time we went in, there would two or three repeats of that same pattern with occasionally a few minutes of just sitting there holding herself up. During those times, I stayed close to her so that I could get there immediately when she popped up.

Most of the next couple of hours contained those trips, each about the same in terms of my role.  When Mary Ann was not in the bathroom, she was in pop up mode.  She has absolutely no awareness of the risks of getting up no matter how often she faints or how much I remind her not to get up without my helping.  At one point, I had to click the seat belt on her transfer chair to slow her popping up so that I could finish folding the clothes from the dryer.

What I have described above is a very normal activity for Caregivers of those with Lewy Body Dementia.  I can hardly complain.  Others have a far more difficult time than do I.  I write in such detail first of all for selfish reasons.  It helps me to put into words and sort of “get off my chest” just how difficult a day can be.  I hope that the detail also provides a point of contact for those who are experiencing the very same thing but have no one to talk with about it.

I also hope that those of you who have friends or family or acquaintances who are caring for someone, will realize what they are going through and cut them a little slack.  If they are whining, they are doing so for good reason.  You don’t have to try to fix their situation, just listen patiently without immediately changing the subject to something that is going on in your life or tell them about all the other people who have it worse than they do.

Tonight, I am wondering if there is a direct correlation between the low blood pressure fainting issue and Mary Ann’s ability to keep on track mentally.  Shortly before going to bed, she stood up and called me over.  I asked what she was doing.  She seemed distressed and said she was leaning against a wall.  Her eyes were open, not slammed shut as happens sometimes.  She was in the middle of the living room, in front of the television.  When I said there was no wall, she responded, “Did they take it down?” (Probably a memory of the removal of walls in during the sun room construction.)

Moments later in the bedroom, she asked what day it was.  I answered, “Saturday.”  Then she asked me if I was preaching tomorrow.  I asked her when the last time I preached was.  She said, “Last Sunday.”  I asked her if she remembered that I had retired almost two years ago and had not preached since.  She just looked puzzled.

While she does get confused and have delusions and hallucinations and dreams that she cannot tell from reality, those interactions tonight, seemed a little extra odd.  That raised in my mind the question of the impact of so many times today that her blood pressure was too low to keep an adequate supply of blood flowing to her brain.  I am wondering what sort of cumulative effect that has.  If that is the case, it complicates the current decision not to give Mary Ann the Midodrine that raises her BP to harmful level.  There is nothing easy about dealing with this combination of diseases and debilities.

f you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

Last night Mary Ann told me that they were trying to trick her.  They were trying to convince her that she was not in her bedroom.  That is a Delusional Misidentification Syndrome called Reduplicative Paramnesia.  It is the belief that a familiar object is actually a substitute for the real one.

Those whom Mary Ann calls the Thursday people were back.  I think it was they who were trying to convince her it was not her bedroom even though it looked just like it.  At least one other time during the night, she asked if the people had settled down yet. As I have mentioned before, I do not want to reinforce the delusions and hallucinations, but I don’t want to dismiss them since they are real to her.  I try to explain that they are not real in a way that I can see them or do anything about them.  Gratefully, she is not terrified by them.  Hospice Nurse Emily confirmed that today when she asked Mary Ann about the hallucinations.

The problems related to what information her visual cortex sends to her awareness are one of the signature symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia and the Dementia that comes to some Parkinson’s Patients.  It is the problem with delusions and hallucinations that often force the issue of using residential care.  As challenging as they can be, with the help of Hospice, I am determined to avoid any residential care other than perhaps a respite day some time. So far the hallucinations are not so strong and so constant as to be impossible to handle.

Today, again, there were multiple events of syncope (fainting) associated with trips to the bathroom.  I suspect that I held her up on the stool upwards of a half hour adding together ten or fifteen minute segments.  When Hospice Nurse Emily took Mary Ann’s blood pressure this afternoon it was 118/68.  That would be good for a twenty year old.  When it starts out that low, it can, of course, go much lower when she stands up.  I have been trying to manage the fainting without resorting to the Midodrine that raises it.  The high BP is so harmful to her heart and kidneys especially.  If it remains that low, I may need to reconsider restarting the Midodrine.  The Cardiologist has given me the freedom to decide whether to give her the Midodrine based on our quality of life.  The preference is to avoid using it.  Those sorts of decisions place a lot of responsibility on my shoulders.  Yes, I am the one with the best vantage point for making the decision, but I feel the weight of that responsibility.

Gratefully the fainting spells were over just before Hospice Aide Sonya arrived at 11am to wash her hair, give her a shower and get her dressed.  Sonya said that Mary Ann did fine. After the shower, we headed out to do errands and to pick up lunch for Mary Ann.  It was a favorite of hers, steak soup and lemon meringue pie from the Copper Oven.

Again after Nurse Emily left in the mid-afternoon, we headed out for errands.  During that run, I picked up some flowers for Mary Ann.  Daughter-in-Law Becky had won a commitment from me to get Mary Ann flowers regularly in trade for adding our cell phone to their account. Do you see why we think so much of our children and the ones with whom they have chosen to spend their lives?

Of course that trip had to include a stop at Baskin & Robbin’s.  Those of you who have been paying attention will probably want to remind me that late afternoon ice cream treats ruin supper and make for tough nights including lots of snacks.  I know!  But the ice cream tastes so good.  She went to bed not too long after 6pm, and yes she has already gotten up to eat a sandwich and some applesauce.  That was around 9pm.  I hope that is enough to get her through the night.

Even with all the ice cream, I reported to Nurse Emily that Mary Ann weighed in at 113 pounds yesterday.  That is down from the last time, 114.5, but up from the time before that, 112.5.  That is about 10% less than she weighed not too many months ago.  At least she seems to be holding her own at the moment.

There is one way in which her weight is an advantage.  Most of those who post in the online Caregiver Spouses of those with Lewy Body Dementia are women caring for their husbands.  A number of them in the last couple of days have talked about the predicament of having their almost 200 pound husbands fall, leaving them unable to get their husbands back up.  Most of them have had to call 911 to get their husbands back up.

I am grateful that Mary Ann is light enough for me to handle most of the time.  Reading those posts, I appreciate how easy I have it by comparison.  I feel a little wimpy when I have trouble getting her off the floor.  It all has to do with where she is located when it happens, whether I can get her in a position that allows me to pull her up and whether or not she is alert enough to help in the process.  When she is partially asleep or feeling very weak, picking her up from the floor with no assistance from her is almost impossible for me to do without risking damage to myself, thereby rendering our system unworkable.  We do have a Hoyer Lift to use if she is located in a position that allows me to get the sling under her.

It is getting late, and since i have had to get up fairly early each day to prepare for the workers on the remodel project, I am anxious to sleep in a little while tomorrow morning.  That will be up to Mary Ann.

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

No, I have not gone over the edge, relying on Dr. House for diagnostic input.  First of all, the character, Dr. House, is extremely annoying, especially to those of us who have encountered arrogant doctors.  Gratefully, other than one Hospitalist, we have been spared that problem in recent years.

Mary Ann loves watching the series, “House.”  We have seen the episodes so many times it is hard to stay in the room when they are on.  There was one yesterday that was far too close to home.  It was one that I don’t remember seeing before.  A character named Amber has been in a bus accident and ultimately dies at the end of the program.  She has died of Amantadine poisoning.

Amantadine is the drug we discontinued a couple of weeks ago and restarted about a week ago.  One reason I was reluctant to restart the Amantidine was a series of warnings to doctors about it in the info sheet that comes with it.  Amantidine is retained in the plasma (I believe) especially if kidney function is compromised.  Mary Ann’s kidney function is significantly reduced due to all the years of high blood pressure.  One warning to the doctor’s was that in elderly patients it is metabolized differently and needs to be reduced so as not to build up.  Mary Ann qualifies since her Body Mass Index has declined so much.

In the program, Amber died of Amantidine poisoning because her kidneys had been damaged in the accident.  Her body could not flush it out.  She was taking it for the flu.  The brand name of Amantidine is Symmetrel, a drug often prescribed to people with the flu to reduce its impact.

No, I am not concerned.  She has been taking it for years.  Yes, when I fax the Neurologist to get in Mary Ann’s chart that she has resumed the Amantidine, I will ask about the warnings given to doctors about it.  No, I will not start the fax with the words, “Dr. House says….”  I will in that fax explain that Mary Ann’s hands swelled and began to display contracturing.  I will explain that she ceased to be able to help with transfers, pretty much losing the abililty to stand.  I will mention that the daytime sleeping doubled in the number of days in a row that she slept.  All that began 36-48 hours after stopping the Amantidine.  Now that she has been on Amantidine for a week, the problems have diminished or returned to the level that preceded stopping the med.

The bad news is that so far the Amantidine does not seem to be doing again the very thing Mary Ann was taking it to do.  Those wavy movements that are apparent when Michael J. Fox is on television are called dyskinesias or dyskinetic movements.  They are caused by years of taking the basic med (brand name, Sinamet) that gives Parkinson’s patients the ability to move (and if a person has them, it reduces the tremors – fast shaking movements usually of a hand).

The Amantidine reduces the intensity of the dyskinesias.  They can be terrible.  There have been times in years past, when Mary Ann almost could not stay in a chair, arms and legs and body were twisting and turning so much.  More than once she has almost flown off the gurney in an ambulance or the Emergency Room.  She takes much less Sinamet now, and with the Amantidine those movements have been subdued.

Guess what?  Resuming the Amantadine has not brought back control of the dyskinesias.  Gratefully, she is not flying out of bed, but on occasion in the last week or so, I have had to click the seat belt on her transfer chair or wheel chair to keep her from slipping out.  It is an interesting challenge to try to help her put her jeans on when her legs are crossed and twisted, moving constantly.  Her muscles are very strong from years of those movements.  I have observed that trying to help her get dressed when the dyskinetic movements are going at full intensity is like trying to wrestle a Python.  No I have never wrestled a Python.

Dyskinesias are completely involuntary.  She cannot stop them.  Stess makes them worse, but just trying to relax will not make them go away.  I am not concerned about this development.  It is nothing new to us.  We just got spoiled when they were under better control.  Now that I realize what other problems the Amantidine seems to be helping control, I will not stop it just because it isn’t helping with the dyskinesias.

Two mornings ago Mary Ann fainted a number of times.  I tried to take her blood pressure, but when she is dyskinetic, it is just about impossible to take her BP.  The movements make noise in the stethoscope that confuses listening for the heart beat.  She fainted multiple times yesterday also.  I heard nothing through the stethoscope, no heartbeat at all, but since she was alive and well, there was, of course no panic.  She was fainting so much I had to lay her down in bed.  She napped for about three and a half hours.  When I did get her blood pressure after napping, it was 165 over 100.  It had been that high the day before when finally I could get it.

Following two mornings of so much fainting, I had decided to resume the Midodrine to raise her BP.  After getting the 165/100 later in both days, it seemed again to make no sense to be raising it higher.

Maybe if we need for me to get a part time job, I could help out at a Pharmacy.  That degree should be coming in the mail right after the MD, with specialties in Neurology and Cardiology, arrives.

On another note, instead of my usual visit to the lake this morning while Volunteer Elaine was with Mary Ann, I headed to church for the Baptism of Oliver, Grandchild to Don and Edie, good friends who have brought us food so often — Edie leads our Spiritual Formation Group.  Since the timing of the Sunday morning Volunteers allows them to attend the 8am Service, they arrive well after the 9:30am service has begin.  As a result I came in quietly in the middle of the service.

For the first time, the prayers included the public announcement that Mary Ann is now being served by Hospice.  At that moment, the fact that I was in church alone struck me.  I didn’t like it!  Afterward, I ended up at Don and Edie’s for a celebration with food.  I would normally have gone to such an event with Mary Ann.  I didn’t like being alone!

I have heard from those who have lost a spouse just how difficult it is to go places alone, places that the two had always gone to together.  Today, that awareness took on a new dimension.  On the positive side of that new level of awareness, I celebrate even more being together with Mary Ann all day long every day.  My gratitude for having retired when I did rather than waiting another year is even deeper.  Whether she is asleep or awake, lucid or not, I am glad she is here.

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She was sitting up in the chair in front of the television.  Her head started jerking forward and back up.  Her arms fell to the sides of the transfer chair.  She was out.   She had not stood up, she was just sitting there when it happened.  Medical folks call it Syncope.  You and I call it fainting. passing out. 

Why did it happen?  Her blood pressure dropped until it was no longer high enough to fight the pull of gravity.  There was no longer enough blood pumping to adequately supply her brain. 

It didn’t just happen once, or twice, or three times.  I lost count.  It was probably five or six times, one right after the other.  It has happened before, but never that many times in a row.  Only two or three times before has it happened while sitting down, unless it was right after standing up or walking or trying to get up — not just sitting down.

There is no explanation of which I am aware as to why the blood pressure is too high sometimes and too low other times.  It has been high almost her entire adult life.  That is called Hypertension.  She also has Orthostatic Hypotension.  That means, when she stands up, sometimes the Autonomic Nervous System [ANS] does not trigger the smooth muscles surrounding the arteries quickly enough to constrict to compensate for the additional gravitational pull down on the blood in her circulatory system.  Read the side effects on very many of the common medications we take.  They warn that there may be dizziness when standing up while taking the med.  That dizziness is a moment of Orthostatic Hypotension, low blood pressure when standing up. 

It sometimes happens to folks who have had Parkinson’s Disease for a long time.  It very often happens to those who have a form of Dementia with Lewy Bodies.  Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is one of those forms.  Little bits of material called Lewy Bodies form on brain cells in the part of the brain that runs the Parasympathetic System of the ANS. 

What all that means is that there is an insidious process that makes life still more difficult to some who are already in a very tough battle.  I know what the explanations are for high and low blood pressure in Mary Ann’s circumstances.  What I don’t know, nor does anyone else, is why for many weeks it has hovered at a frighteningly high level with no fainting spells, and now it is running high at times during the day and plummeting at other times. 

She had fainted some earlier this morning when she was up and down, using the commode. When it happens there, I have to hold her up with my shoulder to keep her from slumping forward.   Then after maybe ten or fifteen minutes of multiple times fainting while sitting in her transfer chair in front of the television, the Hospice Aide Sonya arrived for her first time giving Mary Ann a shower, washing her hair and dressing her.   I thought there was not a chance that Sonya would be able to handle her, even with the new shower chair with arms. 

Mary Ann did not faint once during all the ups and downs of getting into the shower chair, transfering back to the transfer chair she sits in during the day.  Why not??  Why does she faint one time and not another.  This is such a nasty disease, refusing to submit to patterns that can be anticipated. 

Now comes the question, do I resume giving her the Midodrine, a medication that raises blood pressure?  Her heart and kidneys are being damaged by high blood pressure.  I will take her BP in the morning and decide what to do.  If it is exceedingly high, I will not give her the Midodrine.  If it is exceedingly low, I will.  Of course, it is not as simple as that.  If her BP is normal, what should I do?  Normal is not high enough to guard against moving too low when she stands.  It often changes from way too high when she first gets up to way too low in an hour. 

This is an old story heard many times by those who have reading these posts since I began writing this blog just about a year ago now.  You have heard me talk about this many times before.  Here it is again.  It no longer scares me.  It just makes it harder to deal with Mary Ann’s penchant for hopping up and heading off, especially when she is hallucinating.  I have to actually sit a few feet from her every moment she is awake and alert, since she will stand and may fall soon thereafter.   She is completely unaware of any concern.  She doesn’t know she has fainted after she has become conscious again. 

She surprised me and slept fairly well last night.  She did all right at breakfast, fainted for a while, had her bath, ate lunch as Hospice Nurse Jennifer filled out some forms and took her BP.  It was 100 over something, still very low.   Mary Ann sat for a while and then headed to the bedroom and slept for four or five hours. 

I got her up for supper.  We went out again to pick up ice cream and a tankard of PT’s coffee to reheat in the morning (I’m a hopeless fan).   Since she was again in pop-up mode, I needed to get her in the car, seat belted in, so that I could relax and know that she was secure.   The ice cream was just an excuse for getting her into a secure place for a while.  You believe that, right?

Not long after eating the ice cream, she headed off to bed.  In spite of the long nap, at least at the moment she is sleeping.  It may not last. 

One of the people in the online Lewy Body Spouses group lost her husband today.  She described in detail the rapid decline and the process of dying.  My words to her were these:

You have been a mainstay in this group for a long time.  You have put words to what we have been experiencing.  You described what awaits us.  My condolences are laced with anticipation, as a result, I feel vividly what you have just experienced and pray for the peace Charlie now has to free you to find peace here, understanding that the peace does not void the pain you feel.  That is the price of love. 

Our turn will come.

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