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Donna Langenhuizen

I had my first telemedicine appointment with my movement disorder specialist today. The Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) uses videoconferencing as a way to reduce time, cost and stress associated with traveling to a doctor’s appointment.

I arrived at my local hospital and was greeted by a nurse who took me to an office with a screen and video camera, and faxed my medication list and a form detailing what I wanted to discuss to my specialist. He received it, reviewed it, and within 15 minutes he was on the screen. We made the usual pleasantries. He asked the nurse to perform the normal Parkinson’s disease (PD) coordination and walking tests. We then discussed how things have progressed since our last visit. The doctor then said, "So it sounds like things have actually improved a little for you. What brought about these changes?"

I really had to think about this. With my doctor speaking to me via flat screen he was still able to hear and understand my emotional wellbeing. So I told him about the changes I made during this Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month.

I began to explain some of the new things I had adopted throughout the month, brought on by the barrage of information that had been generated in my online Parkinson’s disease (PD) groups. The first thing I did was ask my regular physician to include vitamin D and B12 tests in my blood work. As I had expected, from my online discussions, they were both deficient. So I began a daily regimen of vitamin D and B12 supplements.

I also started exercising daily, walking and stationary bike, which seemed to help alleviate some of my rigidity. Although I had often read about the important of exercise for people with PD, this month, with the push on moving (via walks, runs, dancing) for PD, I could no longer ignore the importance and impact others were receiving from daily exercise.

I got back to filling my day with hobbies and things I enjoyed. I picked up reading again. A hobby that allows me to enter another world.

I also dusted off my sewing machine. With the news that I am going to be a grandmother in November, I searched Pinterest for baby ideas, planned and shopped for materials to begin new baby projects.

I started getting out at least once a day – actually leaving my house. It may be as menial as going to the grocery store or library, but I leave the comfort of my home. Seems so small an adjustment, but it pushed my limits.

I started to plan upcoming events, such as a family reunion and baby shower, which has provided me with goals to work towards. In order for these events to happen I have to plan, set goals and follow through.

In short, I took back control and started participating in my life again. I am not wallowing in the fact that this disease has taken everything away from me. I now work around it, pushing myself and doing things that make me uncomfortable, but impact a positive outcome on my overall health. As the saying goes, “I have Parkinson's disease, it doesn't have me.”

After listing all of these changes to my doctor, who was still on the flat screen monitor, responded, "Well keep that up. It is definitely working for you."  We then signed off and I booked my next appointment.

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness month has bombarded my computer. I absorbed the information and felt the necessity to finally apply it. I took control. Even my specialist, miles away, looking at me through a camera, noticed. Teleconferencing was not as impersonal as I had expected. After my doctor moved his practice to another city I was apprehensive that it would work. It actually did as it professed and reduced the stress of traveling to my appointment. I was actually relaxed and able to fully participate.

Technology continues to amaze me. Through technology I was given information, applied what was useful to me and then delivered it to my doctor via teleconferencing. Who said technology is impersonal?  Perhaps it is time I invested in a cell phone. Not yet, I still don't find the need to be connected 24/7.

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