A strange phenomenon exists in conjunction with the peculiar gait, and that is a similar type of speech. Just as the legs appear to be literally running away with the individual, so does the tongue when he attempts to speak. The result is a marked slurring of his words, a lack of proper enunciation, a literal running together of separate words. It is as if all the words of one sentence were merely syllables in a single word.
The individual with certain types of Parkinson's Disease may notice that his saliva is overabundant and sometimes uncontrollable to the point of drooling. Spasms of the eye muscles constitute a particularly annoying part of the illness in some people. The eyes suddenly roll upward, or to one side, beneath the upper lids and cannot be restored to normal perhaps for many hours.
Sometimes a patient has a personality which expresses a basic urge to "hurry." He tends to be fundamentally a dynamic, tense, and driving type of individual. It is not known whether this type of personality actually predisposes its owner to the development of Parkinson's Disease, or whether the symptoms themselves aggravate the personality type. It is probably safe to assume that such a personality, however materially successful it may make its possessor, does have a tendency to produce or at least to aggravate the signs of Parkinson's Disease.
Throughout the course of Parkinson's Disease, in most instances, the intellectual faculties remain intact, a fact which renders the patient's suffering all the more intolerable and his misery more abject. And as if to add one last insult to this aggregation of injuries, Mother Nature usually decreed—before the day of effective treatment—that the patient should not be permitted the bliss of an early death but should remain alive, if alive it could be called, for perhaps twenty or thirty years without a single modification of the symptoms.
Parkinson's Disease is not ordinarily fatal, that is, it seldom causes death directly. But though it does not kill, it destroys.
Psychological disturbances sometimes occur in Parkinson's Disease resulting from encephalitis. Patients with other varieties of Parkinson's Disease frequently complain of loss of memory and "dulling of the faculties," but such disturbances are more often caused by Parkinsonian medications than by the disease.
Slowly, relentlessly, like some diabolical sculptor, it transforms happy human beings into living but rigid statues, whose most elementary needs must be attended to by others, and whose simplest wants often cannot be expressed at all.
Some Typical Patients
If you should visit a large Parkinson clinic, you would see this strangest and most ancient of all maladies in many forms and stages. Here, for instance, in the waiting room, is a man of thirty—now a shrunken, tremulous, wizened creature. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of his suffering is the fact that his intelligence remains unimpaired, and registers most acutely and poignantly the facts of his unhappy transformation.
Over there you would see an elderly couple, man and wife, both quaking violently, with a certain eerie rhythm, both participants, in this instance by coincidence, in a drama more heartrending than anything fiction could portray. Watch, as the husband, with a pathetic attempt at gallantry, shuffles to his wife's chair and tries to help her to her feet. When finally he succeeds, watch again as the two, clinging desperately to each other, attempt to walk down the corridor. Their first attempt fails for they cannot move. Parkinson's Disease roots them to the spot. Like grotesque mechanical toys they will have to be "given a start" by someone more fortunate. Even then their troubles will not be over, for, once started, they may not be able to stop. Ironically, as a matter of self-preservation, they will need a collision with some substantial object in front of them to arrest the curious shuffling that makes them hurry to catch up with their own center of gravity.
In this clinic you will immediately observe that Parkinson's Disease, in all its tragic manifestations, singles out no special age-group or sex. In the course of an hour's visit, you will see the very rich, the very poor, and many in moderate circumstances; and you will see patients ranging in age from babes in arms to the very old.
But our whole story cannot be unfolded in the clinic waiting room. Come to the dining room where you will see the afflicted try courageously, though not always successfully, to feed themselves. Watch, as an exquisitely beautiful young woman, who should be a happy bride instead of a Parkinsonian patient, tries to drink a glass of milk. Steadying her trembling arm with great effort, she grasps the glass and attempts to raise it quickly to her lips. As if at a given signal the "tremor demons" swoop down upon her.