Don’t Panic…It’s Just a Panic Attack!

When you were a kid did you go to Disneyland (silly question, I suppose) and go on the Peter Pan Ride? First you snake around in the line anticipating the magical ride ahead of you. And as you get closer and closer to the front of the line…you begin to hear music…you try to count how many groups are in front of you… and figure out which flying boat will be yours to ride in. Then there you are at the head of the line, your flying boat arrives and you climb in. You pull the safety bar down across your lap and your boat begins to move. The music is beckoning you, your boat rises up, and out of nowhere a door opens, and you see this magical world ahead of you. Then all of a sudden you hear a voice.  Who is it?  Why it’s Peter Pan of course, and he says “Come on everybody, here we go!”

Hold the phone, Toto…I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.

But we are NOT in Disneyland; we are in Morgan’s World – where sometimes things don’t go like you would expect. But just for fun, repeat after me…”Come on everybody, here we go!”

I had an appointment today for a second screening to see if I meet the criteria for a clinical study testing a new delivery system of a medication I currently take. I am sitting in the exam room waiting for my meds to kick in. But it ain’t happening. The doctor cannot do an assessment test until I am “ON”. In Parkinson’s  lingo “ON” means your meds are working and “OFF” means that they are not working.

So I’m waiting, the doctors assistant is waiting, the doctor is waiting, my husband is in the waiting room waiting.  Nothing.  My phone alarm rings. Time to take more medicine. I do… and still we wait.

Godot could have gotten there faster.

As for me, I’m still sitting in the exam room, my leg shaking like a donkey poker player with pocket tens, my jaw clattering like one of those automated skeleton Halloween decorations.

I packed a lunch because I knew I would be there for a few hours, and I am perennially hungry. My husband came in to sit with me and we had a bit to eat. The assistant returns. “Anything?”
“Nope”…or maybe I should say “NOPE!” So the doctor still can’t do the assessment.

The decision is then made to send me over to the hospital now – for my Spirometry test, and hopefully I will turn “ON” by the time I get there. Well that works for me. I am going “goofy” sitting in this exam room (just a Little Disneyland humor there. Sorry, couldn’t help myself).

So the doctors’ assistant walks us over to the hospital where they will do the test. Here I am waiting again, still “OFF.” Lots of people pass by heading out to go home. I close my eyes for a moment and start to doze. Wait am I dreaming? I see seven dwarves trudging down the street, all singing “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho it’s home from work we go!” And me chained to a tree unable to free myself and trudge home with them.

Suddenly I hear my name being called. A gal walks up to me and puts a hospital bracelet on my wrist. Do I really need this. I am just doing a spirometry test. She points to the elevators and instructs me to go down to the lower level, and find the Pulmonary Care unit.

The lower level. That is like going to the dungeon. Quick, I need some Disney Reference here…oh dang can’t think of one. If you do, let me know.

I check in and they tell me to sit in the waiting room. How many is this now? Wow, this is the smallest waiting room I have ever been in. Maybe I’ll see Snow White and the boys here?
There are nine chairs…only two are empty. And…they aren’t next to each other. My husband excuses himself and says he’s going down the hall to make some phone calls. He’s had to do all his business calls and emails today while standing in hallways, or in waiting rooms. He’s a trooper and no complaints.

The technician comes to the door and calls my name. I go with him down a different hall and we enter an even smaller room. There are 3 huge green, slightly beaten metallic tanks, of gosh only knows what. A lot of machines and a vinyl upholstered chair. I put my purse down where he instructs me, and then asks me (very politely) to take a seat in the Spirometer.

Jimmy Cricket, this contraption has the hardest seat I’ve ever sat in. But I sit there. He begins to explain what is going to happen. I see the big mouth piece looming in front of me. I am going to have to put that in my mouth?

And still I am “off”. Then suddenly it begins. That dreadful feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I think I once heard someone say that Parkinsons is the disease that keeps on giving. Well… lately it has given me panic attacks. And now I feel the tell tale signs. I look around the room. It seems to be getting even smaller, with way too much equipment lining the walls. No attempt made to disguise it, or even decorate. I look at the arm of the spirometer that is going to close around me. And that’s it! I quickly grab my phone. I text my husband: “I am on the verge of a panic attack!” He appears at the door in two nano seconds, my knight in shining armor, or maybe I should say Prince Charming since I am in a Disney mood today. The technician, nice guy, sees I am in distress and says “do you need to get out?” Oh boy do I!

We follow him down the hall to a stairwell that takes us directly outside. I can’t breathe and someone has turned the faucet on in my eyes. And I am not even in full panic mode. Luckily the change of scenery and fresh air does the trick. I avoid complete meltdown in public.

I guess I’m not doing that study.

A few more panic attacks with that amount of tears streaming down my face, and I could singlehandedly solve California’s drought problem.

Heigh Ho!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Panic…It’s Just a Panic Attack!

  1. You are as brave as Belle (to continue you Disney references).
    Morgan, have you considered relaxation techniques for panic attacks? Silly question, I guess, as you may have tried them all, but just in case…….visual imagery, slow & rhythmical pursed lip breathing, even saying a repetitive phrase or singing a line from a familiar & soothing song – eyes closed……….anything to take you away (theoretically) from the present situation and focus your “system” on something more stable and calming.
    I have a friend who is into Reflexology…..not something I am knowledgeable on at all……but she has mentioned being able to apply pressure at certain points to help. Sorry I do not have the details but you might consult a Reflexologist.
    I am so sorry this happened to you and interfered with the assessment but glad you had support nearby!
    Thanks so much for your honesty.


  2. Morgan…I started having panic attacks after my bout with Cancer…chemo, radiation…my first was walking in Bloomingdale s looking for a gift for my daughter who was about to graduate from UCLA…As I was walking I felt a numbness come over my entire body…almost an out of body experience…I grabbed the man cleaning the floors and he directed me to the store…the salesgirl put me in a dressing room where I huddled in a corner like a soon to be baby curled up in her mommy’s tummy..I didn’t realize it but she called the Paramedics, who came walking in taking my vitals..asking me if anything unusual has happened to me…my flip answer was nothing to unusual, just finished my battle with cancer and have just arrived back in LA after burying my mother…they said “so that’s it…you are having a panic attack and proceeded to call my boss at the time, who came to get me. By this time a crowd had gathered near the dressing room. I felt embarrassed so as I walked out with the four paramedics I said in a very loud voice, “THAT WAS A GREAT SCENE WE JUST DID …THE MOVIE IS GOING TO BE GREAT”….and knowing a little bit about you and your humor, I think it was something you might have said. You are an amazing woman…strong because you have to be…and a perfect poster child for the disease you are battling…a true inspiration for all that share your story. I am blessed to know you. Miriam


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