On our 6th day at the centre for neurorehabilitation in Portugal, CNS, it was time for evaluation and reflection. How much can you actually achieve in just 5 days of training? We were about to find out…
Josefa, the Portuguese physiotherapist who loves to complicate things (but only if it’s useful), put us on the balance evaluation pressure plate, first me and then Jon. I had noticed Jon’s posture really improve over the course of the week and he also seemed to have less tremor. On the day before, Portuguese television had come to the centre for interviewing Josefa and her colleagues and they also interviewed Jon and me. I think that Jon really enjoyed being able to dazzle the beautiful interviewer with his impressive knowledge of neuroscience.
Josefa did not expect our results to have changed significantly from only 5 days of training so she was very surprised when both Jon and I showed a marked improvement in the different balance tests.
For the afternoon we were going into Lisbon for some sightseeing and shopping. But as usual, Josefa had an additional agenda. She wanted to put my newfound knowledge and anti-freezing strategies to the test in the busy streets of the capital with the unpredictable crowds and ruthless cars. Her boss, neurologist professor doctor Joaquim Ferreira looked slightly worried when she told him but he decided it was at least safer than in Rome.
But first, the very last training session for this trip and once again Josefa was able to surpass herself when complicating things. You may recall from my previous posts (here, here, here and here), that she had already made me walk on treadmill with my feet strapped to the treadmill with rubber bands and also walking in the pool with flippers on my feet. So what would be the logical next step you ask?
Yes, of course: walking on the treadmill with flippers!
When walking on the treadmill like some sort of amphibian, something really clicked… A huge lightbulb moment! And for those of you who do not have Parkinson’s, this will probably sound really stupid and self-evident, but I realised that if I use my abdominal muscles when I walk, I don’t have to jerk and fight to make my feet go forward… And what’s more, it felt like the freezing was more under control. Hmmmmm…… interesting…..
And in Lisbon, I put my new hypothesis to the test. I was very careful to activate my abs on every step and it felt REALLY good. I tried manoeuvring crowds and going in narrow passages, something that would have had me stopping dead in my tracks on one foot, trying to find the ground with the other only one week earlier. And it went amazingly well! Josefa was almost as exhilarated as I was and Jon tried masking his happiness for my progress by pretending to be disappointed he wouldn’t be able to make me freeze by startling me any longer.
We celebrated our extremely intense week and all our successes at a wonderful restaurant and watched the sun set in the Atlantic. What a week!
Thank you Josefa, Alice, Verónica, Francisco, Daniela, Pedro, Mariana, Rita, Rita, Rita, Joao and all the rest of you wonderful people at CNS! I will be back!