Living with Parkinson’s – Barrie’s story

SOCIAL WORKER Barrie Smith was only 50 years old when he went to the doctor with a bad case of insomnia. He was referred to City Hospital after he developed a slight tremor in his right hand. Neurologist Dr David Nicholl, diagnosed early onset Parkinson’s Disease. Barrie said; “It was a real shock. This came out of the blue for me. There was no history of PD in our family, so I had nothing to refer to. However the team at City Hospital have been there for me every step of the way. Parkinson’s is not just about having a shaky arm. It is so much more than that. Symptoms are many and varied starting at my head with lumps from inflamed hair follicles to deafness, loss of my sense of smell, and therefore my taste is greatly reduced, I have had problems swallowing and with my speech and once I totally froze up. That actually happened after I suffered a heart attack and I couldn’t get off the operating table following an angiogram as my body froze.

“I take a lot of medication every day, and as memory loss is also a problem, I have various devices to help me ensure I get the tablets I need at the right times, such as pill boxes and alarms set on my mobile phone. Dr Nicholl has helped me with this also, as I reacted badly to my original medication so he adjusted it and I am much better on the new regime. I haven’t had to stay in hospital due to the Parkinson’s, however was in City Hospital for a week when I had a heart attack. One thing I fondly remember is the fabulous food I enjoyed when I was there. I ate far more than I would have when I was at home, and I didn’t choose the English menu once. I feasted on curries and delicious Afro Caribbean meals which I like, as I like strongly flavoured food due to my reduced sense of taste . It was delicious.

“I am really happy with the care and treatment I have received from the hospital and NHS community staff.I have had a lot of contact with the Trust this year due to complications with my health, and can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here without the support I have received. I have regular check ups with Dr Nicholl, and can see my Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist Sarah Coyle any time I need to. Both my wife and I have her mobile number and we can phone her with any problems. She is always there for us. Sarah holds a clinic every Monday morning at SoHo Road, which is very handy for me.”

“Parkinson’s, like other neurological disorders affects the whole of my life. People understanding that the condition is more than “the shakes” is really helpful to us to ensure we recover as much as we are able. I would like to say a big thank you to those who have helped and continue to support my family, they are all stars!”

Dr Nicholl commented: “We are very fortunate to have an excellent Parkinson’s team at SWBH. Although we had good feedback in the recent WMQRS (West Midlands Quality Review Service) report on our care, I look forward to working with many of our partners – both within the hospital and community to look at making things better. Not least as next year marks the 10th anniversary of the Birmingham Movement Disorders Course which I run with my colleague, Prof Carl Clarke, also at SWBH, which helps teach clinicians from around the World about how to optimise care for patients like Barrie.”