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By Linda Lee Albert

(Page 1 of 3)

My husband, Jim, had no intention of retiring. He was never a man who longed to replace his office for the golf course - who pictured himself leaving his native Michigan for warmer climates. He was a man who considered it a worthy challenge to maneuver his car without mishap in the kind of lake effect snow and ice for which we were famous, and who never looked out the window during our very long winters and fretted over the gloom and absence of sun for which we were also well known.

For the first seven years after his diagnosis of Parkinsonís disease at the age of 58, Jim barely turned a hair. He had climbed to a successful enough place in life to satisfy himself; found a comfortable plateau in his profession managing a small stable of real estate holdings he had developed, and was content to stay there for the rest of his life. Then one day, things changed. He felt stiff and lethargic in a way he had not previously experienced. His optimism was suddenly no longer in evidence. His belief in his ability to make good decisions disappeared. Trips to his neurologist did nothing to reassure him, even though the doctor was convinced there was no particular change for the worse in the progression of his disease. We were bewildered, and Jim was beginning to be frightened.

Fortunately, our son-in-law, Andy, a clinical social worker, took it upon himself to do a search for us on the Internet. According to what he found, 50 percent of Parkinsonís patients will be fated to undergo a clinical depression at some point in the course of their illness, with the symptoms imitating the Parkinsonís symptoms themselves, so that a diagnosis is very difficult to ascertain. No failing on the part of the person suffering through this is to blame, we discovered - not even the pain and disappointment of having to deal with a progressive physical disease - but rather, the compromised brain chemistry itself was both the primary cause and the potential remedy

Neither my husbandís internist nor neurologist had alerted us to this possibility, but once armed with information, we were ultimately able to find a neuro-psychiatrist who aided us in understanding what my husband was going through, and who reassured us that Jim could be helped. The doctor prescribed Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant, to give my husband what he called ďa floorĒ on which to stand emotionally, and encouraged him to get back into living his life as fully as possible.

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