Parkinson’s, a Bike Crash, and a Hospitalization — Oh My!

Jean Mellano avatar

by Jean Mellano |

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As a Parkinson’s disease patient, dismay and anxiety are all too common in my life. One day, though, these negative feelings threatened to overwhelm me. 

The bike crash

My late husband always said there are two types of bikers: those who have crashed and those who will crash. 

I got dressed to go biking for a quick 30-minute ride. (Due to my Parkinson’s symptom of bradykinesia, it takes me almost as long to get ready as I actually spend in the saddle.) While on the road, I slowed down to a stop because a car approached from the opposite direction. My left foot froze, preventing me from unclipping from the pedal. I went down hard on my left side and heard my elbow crack as I hit the pavement. I screamed so loudly that the community security guards heard from over a block away. Aid arrived quickly and off to the hospital I went.

In the ambulance, I was upset at the EMS professional who had to cut off my biking jersey and jacket — one-of-a-kind items custom-designed for my late husband’s triathlon team. I suppose my brain needed to obsess about something superficial to avoid focusing on the severity of my situation.

The hospital

I never really gave too much thought to what hospitalizations must be like for a patient with Parkinson’s. Ironically, I had sent away for a free Patient Safety Kit for people with Parkinson’s, but I hadn’t reviewed it. (The information in this kit is invaluable. I highly recommend it for people with Parkinson’s, their caregivers, and their emergency contacts.)

After a brief ambulance ride to the hospital and some digital imaging, I was rolled into an emergency surgery that lasted over four hours. My left elbow had a compound open fracture. I learned very quickly during this hospitalization that neither my doctors nor nurses were well-versed in Parkinson’s medications.

Most people with Parkinson’s struggle trying to find their ideal medication cocktail, and in my experience, the time of day one takes medications can make a difference. Following are the medication challenges I faced during my hospital stay; keep them in mind so you can prepare for the potential of a hospitalization.

Contraindications

This article nicely summarizes which hospital medications should not be administered to a patient with Parkinson’s. Luckily, my emergency contact (my cousin) was aware of these contraindicated drugs. My neurologist made us aware of them during a past visit, and my cousin took good notes!

Generic vs. brand

In my experience, hospitals prefer to supply generic medication alternatives rather than brand names. This could be a problem if you are dependent on a specific brand name for relief. My hospital also dispensed a generic from a different manufacturer than I was used to taking.

Timing of medications

My medication schedule did not line up with the hospital’s schedule for providing meds.

Medication stock

The hospital did not have selegiline or Neupro. Thankfully, my cousin was able to pick up my medications from my house.

Lessons learned

My Parkinson’s symptoms now seem only slightly worsened. That may be the result of a disruption to my normal medication intake, or it might be due to trauma and surgery. Maybe both.

As with any adverse experience, I try to look back and see what I can learn from the situation. 

  1. I have accepted that I am not the cyclist I once was.
  2. I am thankful for what I can still do.
  3. I have great gratitude for my friends and cousin who are supporting me through my recovery.
  4. It is important to have a strong core. This has helped me physically get out of bed and also has given me better balance so I don’t fall and re-injure myself.
  5. I must remind myself that I have made great progress toward recovery. The first day after surgery, I had to use a bedpan. By the time I was discharged from the hospital two days later, I could walk unaided to use the bathroom.
  6. My fierce streak of independence needs some tempering. I am learning to accept help when offered.
  7. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. 

Where do I go from here?

Will I get back on the bike again? Maybe. In the meantime, there is no doubt in my mind that I will return to Rock Steady Boxing. My left jab may never pack the power it once did, but I look forward to helping my Parkinson’s symptoms and possibly slowing disease progression.

I’ll be back for round two!

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments

Annette Walden avatar

Annette Walden

I have heard this so many times that when someone with
Parkinson is admitted to hospital most medical staff are unaware of the importance of the individual getting their personal Parkinson medication on time. It is the difference from having good symptom control to not achieving any kind of symptom control Perhaps all day, which in turn causes the hospital staff a lot more work and maybe contributing to a longer recovery time for their patient. I despair sometimes.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Annette, thank you for your comment. Luckily, my emergency contact was well versed in my meds and she was able to jump in and help me. I can’t stress enough that the caregiver, emergency contact and the patient themselves must be advocates. The link to the kit I mentioned is helpful to hate her the info in prep for hospital stay

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Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Jean - this was a great article and ends on such a positive note after such a horrific experience. Thanks for sharing. Keep on keeping on.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Thank you Sherri for your supportive words. We each have our crosses to bear

Reply
Leslee A Miller avatar

Leslee A Miller

My husband had a hospital stay as a result of catching his leg on the bicycle seat and falling as he got off his bike. It was a soft landing on some grass. Internal bleeding took us to the hospital where a scan showed he had lacerated a kidney. Because this was a result of a fall, they labeled him as a fall risk and put sensors in his bed and side chair to alert them whenever he got up. He was in ICU for four days which was like being in hell for him. Whenever he has trouble with his legs, he MUST get up and walk and they wouldn't let him do that. Even though one of his nurses had been a caregiver for a PD patient, he had trouble getting his meds on the strict schedule that he needs. Both our son and I had to be loud mouthed advocates for him. My husband is on a blood thinner which likely contributed to the bleeding, but luckily the kidney healed without surgery. These four days were the longest in his life. He never wants to be hospitalized again.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Leslee,thank you for sharing your husband's story. I am glad you and your son were able to advocate for him. a hospital is not a good place to be for a healthy person, let alone a person with Parkinson's

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Jeff Kearns avatar

Jeff Kearns

I switched to Zwift after my tremor almost caused a fall at a high rate of speed. For those that might not know, Zwift is indoor cycling software. I've been using it for a year and a half and don't miss riding outside at all. A trike is another good option, and I may get one someday, but for now I'm really enjoying Zwift.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

hi jeff thnx for ur comment. glad to hear u r back in saddle. i used to have a cyclops trainer for my bike, but could never get into it. there is something special about riding outside when the sun is shining..... i struggled giving up my trek road bike and going to a hybrid. i dont know how successful i would be trading in my bike for a trike :-( i am happy i have rock steady boxing...

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Lori DePorter avatar

Lori DePorter

Important stuff! During a symposium, I learned about the “aware in care” bag available through the Parkinsons foundation.

https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/Resources-and-Support/Patient-Safety-Kit

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

The "aware in care" bag is invaluable! I hope people take advantage of it.

As i said in the article, my emergency contact was well aware of PD patients' challenges while in the hospital. I'm glad she was paying attention since this was not a planned hospital admission for me.

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Mark Richardson avatar

Mark Richardson

I appreciated your article on Robin Williams and Lewy Body. I watched the documentary, “Robin’s Wish,” which was excellent. I too was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, in 2019. And my mother committed suicide in 2009. After my experience, and watching the movie, I really wish we had taken my mother to a neurologist and had an autopsy. Like Robin, she became a “different person,” which we attributed to all the pills she was prescribed. Now I find myself second guessing. My wife is a nurse who insisted I get tested for Parkinson’s. Without her, I am doubtful I ever would have figured out what was causing all the weird things that were happening to me.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Mark, thank you for your comments. I am so sorry about your Mom. Yes, PD does weird things to our bodies. Stay strong.

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Par Bikes avatar

Par Bikes

Jean, biking is not out of your future. Par Bikes LLC acquired 2 quadricycle companies in early 2020. We are amazed at how many of our customer's have Parkinson's. Our bikes are more stable then any 3 wheel bike and actually easier to ride. You can ride as a single or even a side by side tandem bike. Each rider can pedal at their own leisure and on 21 independent gear systems. If you care to learn more please let me know. Don't let Parkinson's remove the wonderful world of biking.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi. Thank you for this information, good to know

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mary lane avatar

mary lane

try dancing again. i used to do 1 hr weight lift classes, kickboxing and zumba. i was diagnosed 10 yrs ago and i must say i am blessed because i am still on stage 2 with my symptoms. nowadays i just dance, mostly salsa, rumba and line dancing which i depend on - you tube - for the great selection. it is a good and safe way to keep on MOVING!!!

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Thank you Mary for your suggestion! I have just recently started teaching dance to the members of my community. Now if I could only do something about my fatigue.....

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Dan Newcome avatar

Dan Newcome

I was always a road cyclist. I raced in Europe as a teenager. After a very long break from cycling I started riding again. I never felt like my fitness was improving. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Pure Autonomic Failure three weeks ago. Just before my diagnosis my with bought me a Trek Domane e-bike. It has been a game changer for me. The guys who I ride with tell me I have a big grin on my face.

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Jean Mellano avatar

Jean Mellano

Hi Dan, I did give my bike to my cousin. I dont see me road riding ever again. I was just diagnosed with osteoporosis so I cant afford to fall again as my bones are very brittle. SInce my elbow was totally shattered and radial was dislocated, I have had 2 additional surgeries sine 5/2020, plus, still doing P/T and still have pain and a huge metal plate and screws in my left arm. I was considering a Theracycle. I am happy that you have found something that works for you.

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