My World of Parkinsonian Delights

Pedaling No Problem in Parkinson's Disease

True story.  When I was a young man having a beer with my late father at a tavern near Mom and Dad’s house in Oak Creek, WI, we saw an elderly, obviously drunk dude wake up from having his face on the bar and stagger to the door.

“Drive carefully,” the barkeep said.

Dad and I looked at each other.  Surely, this guy was in NO condition to get behind the wheel of a car.  We went outside after him determined to take his keys and give him a ride if need be.  But he was gone already… on his bicycle, pedaling down Chicago Avenue.

We shook our heads in disbelief.  “Well, I guess he had to ride a bike,” my dad said.  “He was too drunk to walk.”

Turns out there may be a glimmer of truth to that.  To the uninitiated, we Parkies look drunk when we walk.  Yet those of us who suffer from Parkinson’s disease-related walking difficulties like freezing of gait do just FINE pedaling bikes!

I honestly cannot understand it.  When I walk I have to either take slow, shuffling steps, or freeze on every other step when taking longer strides.  But you put me on the exercise bike, I’m pedaling like a fool… a good rhythm, no stalling, no problem.

It’s a struggle for me to do my “big walk” back and forth across the living room five times.  I’m worn out physically and mentally when I’m done.  But I can do 20 minutes on the exercise bike and barely break a sweat.

Parkinson’s?  Thou art a WEIRD disease!

Here’s what they’re saying about this on the Web…

A 58-year-old man with a 10-year history of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease presented with an incapacitating freezing of gait. However, the patient’s ability to ride a bicycle was remarkably preserved. (In Video 2, the patient is not … — Mon, 12 Apr 2010 21:31:26 -0700
“He had freezing of gait – the mysterious phenomenon where the people really feel as if their feet are glued to the floor,” he said. Video footage of the man shows him taking a tentative shuffle, his hands shaking by his sides, … — Sun, 11 Apr 2010 23:29:17 -0700
Freezing of gait is one of the incapacitating symptoms often observed in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Last week’s issue of NEJM showed an striking result in a patient who could barely initiate gait due to advanced parkinsonism. … — Fri, 09 Apr 2010 17:54:03 -0700
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