04 September 2011

Clinical notes

The patient was 44 years old and had an uncontrollable, Parkinson-like tremor in both hands that had been worsening for months. His shaking hands were getting in the way of his manual-labor job and made everyday tasks such as clothing himself and brushing his teeth nearly impossible.

It's almost inexplicable for someone so young to develop Parkinson's. Something else had to be at play--the patient's longtime meth use, which he had unsuccessfully tried to break and which he hid from his family. Now the drug had caught up with him, causing what was likely permanent damage to his brain. The news that the meth was jeopardizing his ability to support his family came as a sobering shock. When the physician informed him that he must never take another dose of meth, ever, the patient teared up, gravely agreed, and vowed to change.

Everyone in the exam room was touched by this patient, who was quite likeable and was trapped and diminished by addiction. He had persevered in the face of past obstacles, and had tried to do good for himself and his family. Now, his own worst enemy was himself, and only through sheer willpower could he stop his demon from claiming more of his body.