Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coherent Ramblings from An Early-Onset Parkinson's Patient

Re: Parkinson's Disease and Other Related Machinations

You have heard this before, I'm sure.

Probably from your mother and father. I know I did.

Remember ... ? "If you have your good health, you have everything!"

Now, if that is true, and I think it is, when you don't have your good health, well ... you may not have "nothing" right away, but you will have less than everything right from the beginning.

There is a ritual custom in Judaism on the days when the Torah is read. A member of the minyan is chosen to lift the Torah upon completion of the reading. He approaches the bimah, grasps the handles of the etz chaim around which the Parchment of the scroll is wrapped, unrolls both halves to expose as many columns as he feels comfortable supporting (it becomes more unwieldy the more columns are exposed) slides the scroll down to the edge of the reading table, and depending how experienced and bold he is and may feel, combined with the varying distribution of the two halves of the text scroll, crouches down as if he were about to perform a dead lift, then stands up straight raising the Torah over his head as high as he can, turns around so that all can see the columns of script-and upon one complete turn, sits down on a pre-prepositioned chair whereupon another person rolls the two halves of the scroll together.

That act of ritual is called "hagbahah."It requires strength, balance and poise., especially when lifting the larger, heavier sifrei Torah.There was a time when I could do that quite well-when after my divorce I worked out bicycling and lifting weights so that I was able to achieve a level of fitness unlike any I had experienced since my high school years when my brother Ron and I used to lift weights at the local JCC.

One of my favorite exercises was the fly rep.Here's how that works: one can either stretch himself backward on an exercise ball or, as I used to do, suspend myself on a chair, my heals hooked on the top edge of its back, lean back toward the floor, grasp the weights evenly spaced on either side of one's head, lifting them over the chest and repeat.

One day I heard and felt something snap in my left shoulder while doing a set of fly reps.It's never been the same.Since that time, I've lost a lot of mobility and strength in that shoulder but gained a great deal of chronic pain and so much discomfort that I became anxious about my physical ability to raise the Torah. It wasn't long before I told Rabbi Louis that I would no longer accept the honor lest I falter and drop it! It was, I determined, a weight lifting injury, I supposed at the time. It would heal, in time.What I didn't and could not have known at the time was that I had already begun to experience signs of the early onset of Parkinson's Disease.

More to follow. Stay tuned.

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