Thursday, November 19, 2009

Parkinson's in Paradise - Caught a Cold in the Caribbean

It is relatively easy to feel sorry for yourself when you catch a cold on the first day of a Caribbean cruise.

It all started several weeks before we were to leave on our short but much-anticipated vacation aboard the Emerald Princess out of Fort Lauderdale. As is often the case, it took a week or more of working 14 to 16 hour days to get ready to take one week off, therefore I arrived at the hotel in Florida the night before our ship’s embarkation, feeling rundown and exhausted. More importantly, or so I thought, I was minus my suitcase, which held all of my clothes and, stupidly, my Parkinson's medication. The bag and its needed contents had apparently gone AWOL at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, aided and abetted by some practical-joking baggage handler. Apparently he or she thought it would be hilarious as he imagined me, dressed in my latest Lululemon clothes with my right side shaking with the necessary velocity to gain flight, trying to convince the maĆ®tre d' that I should be permitted entry with my wife and friends into the Botticelli dining room on formal night. The American Airlines missing baggage department assured me they would launch a full-scale search and recovery mission in order to track down my truant luggage, ensuring that it would be captured, taken into custody and transported under guard on the next flight to Fort Lauderdale, arriving at the hotel late that evening. Long after midnight I gave up waiting and fell asleep with images of looking seriously out of sync with my well-dressed wife.

I did not feel 100% when I woke up the next morning, but chalked that up to a less than restful sleep and the stress of finding out that my bag had still not arrived. As the morning ebbed away, my frustration began shifting to optimism as the lost baggage police had indicated my overstuffed suitcase had indeed been taken prisoner and was supposed to be delivered to the hotel. I insisted that I needed it by no later than 11 a.m., as that was the time our ride to the pier was to pick us up. Caught between angry, anxious and still exhausted, I sat in the hotel lobby to wait, and promptly fell asleep. Unbeknownst to me, American Airlines had taken my insistence on meeting the 11 a.m. deadline seriously, and missing that deadline they had the bag impounded in a warehouse with millions of other mislaid suitcases. My wife woke me about 12:15 p.m. to tell me that after speaking to an American Airlines supervisor explaining in no uncertain terms that things were getting critical she had discovered that the warehouse was a scant 8 blocks from the hotel, and had arranged a taxi to drive us there to pick up the bag and transport us to the ship’s gangplank. By the time we arrived at the pier I had a bad headache and a good case of the shakes, but at least we were finally boarding to begin our tropical time away.

My next 3 days were spent largely in our cabin (thank goodness for a balcony), only venturing out with a large stash of tissues to staunch the tide that would erupt from my increasingly runny nose. Fellow voyagers scowled at me as I attempted to avoid spraying them with my sneezes. Even crewmembers invariably sought out one of the innumerable hand sanitizer machines every time I went by them stifling my hacking cough and sniffing incessantly. The alliteration was not lost on me: catching a cold on a cruise in the Caribbean!

But despite the lack of cold medicine on board the otherwise well-stocked cruise ship, and notwithstanding my antisocial behavior as I disappeared for a nap every couple hours, I began to appreciate that things could be worse. I could be at work attempting to function in Stoic fashion, pressed by demands I felt ill-equipped to meet. Instead, I had a whole week to recover in the sun, enjoying 80 plus temperatures and unparalleled scenery, sharing excellent food and entertainment with good friends. I could sleep whenever I felt like it, which was often, and likely return home at the end of the week modestly refreshed and rested. Having a cold in the Caribbean was not so bad.

This led me to think about living with Parkinson's disease in less developed countries where good medical care is either unavailable or unaffordable. Living in Canada, I am blessed by having, in effect, Parkinson's in paradise. The standard of living and medical health system enables me to have the best of care, economic access to a variety of medications and the expectation that I will live as long as most.

It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves. But there are many who have little medical or other support in their fight against the fear and uncertain future that follows a diagnosis of PD, if such a diagnosis is available. Comparatively, we are fighting Parkinson’s in paradise.


  1. I hope you are tanned, well rested and over that cold now, Bob!

  2. It was very considerate of you to be sick while you are away from the office Bob :) Hope you are feeling much better and that you have a safe trip home.

  3. I think you should have stayed another week for further recuperation. Sunshine is much better for one's overall health as opposed to the buckets of rain we've been having here! Hope you are feeling better!