Dying in Slow Inches
Paula tearfully whispered, “I’m dying in slow inches.” That’s what Parkinson’s disease does; it affects every aspect of life, very slowly. Physical independence is gradually lost. The disease itself isn’t fatal, it’s the complications of the disease that are: pneumonia, injuries related to falls, choking, and the inability to swallow. Of course medications can prolong some quality of life, extending the process of loss.
Paula was losing muscle tone all over her body, she was bedbound now and her speech was difficult to understand unless you were a good lip reader. She was grieving about not being able to talk with her grandchildren on the phone. She couldn’t grip a pen to write letters anymore. Her mind was sharper than most.
As I was walking out the door of her tiny apartment she waved me back to her bed and whispered in my face, “If you knew you were dying and were allowed one phone call, who would you call?” Before I could answer her she mouthed, “What are you waiting for?”