Parkinson's disease

Humphrey - Interview 01

Male
Age at interview: 57
Age at diagnosis: 54

Brief outline: Humphrey was able to continue working as a writer, broadcaster and musician after he was diagnosed. Although his Parkinson's was progressing fairly quickly he maintained a resolutely positive attitude, trying to solve each problem as it presented itself, such as voice recognition software when typing became difficult. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2005.

Background: Married, children. Writer and broadcaster

Audio & video

When Humphrey first noticed he was making unexpected mistakes in his typing and a tremor in his hand he assumed it was caused by anxiety. When he consulted a psychotherapist for anxiety and depression the therapist suspected a possible neurological cause for his symptoms. By this time Humphrey had been looking things up and had come to the conclusion that he might be suffering from Parkinson’s disease, so he was not altogether surprised when a neurologist confirmed this diagnosis. He continued to work, completing a biography of Spike Milligan, and working for the BBC but he suspected that the fact that he had been very open about his diagnosis was a factor in one of his broadcasting contracts not being renewed. He found it difficult to continue playing a keyed wind instrument, but was struck by the extent to which his symptoms seemed to disappear when he was playing the double bass during a jazz gig. He found the slowing down of his physical activities distressing and particularly resented the time wasted on simple activities such as dressing, and he tended to freeze, for instance when going up and down stairs. He noticed that in social situations such as parties, or when having to rise to an occasion, he was able to overcome his symptoms and function much more normally than when doing routine activities at home. He was treated with various medications most of which worked for a time but as the condition progressed either the dose had to be increased or he had to be changed to another treatment. Humphrey died unexpectedly in 2005 from a heart attack.

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