Parkinson's disease

Gina - Interview 41

Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 42

Brief outline: After Gina was put on Ropinerole she started gambling on the internet and lost large sums of money. There was no indication at that time on the leaflet that came with the medication that gambling might be a problem.

Background: Trademark formalities assistant. Married, 2 children.

Audio & video

Gina consulted her doctor when her right arm started ‘bouncing about’. She thought it could be repetitive strain syndrome. When she learned that she had Parkinson’s disease she had no idea what it was but was afraid it was something like Leukaemia and that she might not have long to live. Her consultant was not reassuring and told her that her symptoms were sure to get worse. As she learnt more she became more reconciled to this not being the worst thing that could happen to her.


Having asked to be taken off Cabergoline which had been prescribed because she had read there was a 1 in1000 chance of organ damage from these tablets, she was put on Ropinerole. She became involved in gambling initially just Bingo. When 3 months later at the hospital she was asked if she had noticed any unusual behaviour she said ‘only a bit of bingo’. There was, she says, nothing at that time in the  leaflet that came with the medication to indicate that gambling and other compulsive behaviours were recognized  side effects of this medication. Unfortunately due to staff shortages at the hospital her next appointment was not for a whole year by which time she had lost in excess of £75,000 and concerned that she could  to lose her house. Only then did she discover that her compulsive behaviour had been caused by her medication. Once she came off Ropinerole, the need to gamble disappeared completely within weeks but she and her husband are stuck with their desperate financial position.


Gina didn’t initially want everyone at her work to know about her PD, mainly because she didn’t want to be treated differently. Now that they know it is not a problem. Although she told her sons quite early on and one of them helped her look the condition up on the internet she feels they don’t really understand the implications of her condition. Her husband who is Portuguese and has worked nights for many years has supported her through the financial catastrophe which has hit them as a result of her illness. Both of them have taken on extra work to try to make up for their losses.


Gina says if you saw her in the street now, 7 years after her intital diagnosis, you might not realize she had PD. It shows more when she is excited or upset and she has to hold on to her arm to conceal the shaking. She still walks several miles a day on her way to work.


She takes Amantadine as well as Sinemet.


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