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How unexpected obstacles can turn walking along pavements into Krypton Factor-style challenges for people with Parkinson’s disease

Parkinality columnist Julie Walker, of Bishop’s Stortford, writes not about parking, but about living with Parkinson’s disease in her 50s

The perambulation pixie is a pain. Don’t worry I haven’t lost the plot. It is my way of making light of an annoying Parkinson’s disease (PD) problem which is affecting me at the moment. Since my deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery the medication side-effects have improved, but my walking has deteriorated. It often feels like an outside force, a bit like a pesky pixie, is interfering with my walking.

I knew the DBS wasn’t a cure, but neither is it an exact science, requiring constant minute adjustments. The machine and the medication work together in an attempt to get my body following instructions originating in my brain.

If I walk a short distance then usually (but not always) I will be walking okay (ish). However, once I have been walking for a few minutes my walking usually (but not always) turns into a comedy sketch show. So I can potter about the pub, but can’t walk to the post office. My left leg flails about and my feet have their own private disagreement, with one foot attempting to walk toe heel and the other flat-footed.

My weird walking means that pavements are a pain. I have nothing against concrete - it is the obstructions on pavements which cause me stress. Navigating the pavements can be a Krypton Factor-style challenge (ask an over-50).

Rubbish day. No I’m not referring to the day you failed your driving test, I’m referring to the day the refuse collectors collect. Even the most considerate person could unwittingly cause an obstruction when putting their bins out to be collected. It might appear there is enough room for a person to pass, but what about a person with a walker or a mobility scooter, or someone with walking sticks?

Try walking toe heel with one leg being dragged spontaneously out to the side, whilst balancing with two sticks. All this whilst trying not to let your walking stick slip off the kerb. On second thoughts, don’t try this as you’re liable to come a cropper.

At the time of writing, hazard lights are not an authorisation to park your car wherever you want. Unless you are delivering a kidney, please don’t park on the pavement. Pausing for a second often extends into minutes and when those minutes are spent bumped up on the pavement, your vehicle becomes an obstruction.

In this busy world, even the most polite pedestrian can unwittingly become a moving obstacle or a stationary obstruction. Sloping pavements might not be Everest, but people with PD can often have problems with the hills of Bishop’s Stortford. Even a slight incline can appear like a steep mountain path and objects in our peripheral vision cause a distraction. Hence it can often feel like one is free-falling when trying to navigate a pavement with a pronounced pitch. This is a problem, not only for people with PD but for anyone with a perambulation pixie in their lives.

So I implore you, please do not block the pavement, even for a brief moment. You never know when an awkward load will come shuffling past.

Cars parked on the pavement are a real nuisance for Julie Walker. Picture: iStock
Cars parked on the pavement are a real nuisance for Julie Walker. Picture: iStock

As we know, things come in threes. The Wise-ish Man and I can add to the two reports regarding the kindness of strangers in the Indie last week. We were dining in Côte restaurant a couple of months ago and, when we came to pay, our waitress divulged that a lady had already paid our bill. To this day we don’t know why.

Finally, a tiny reminder about the Party for Parkinson’s being held at the Belgian Brewer in Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday April 6 where there will be three bands, poetry and great beer. Tickets are available at thebelgianbrewer.co.uk.

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