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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Driving Mr. Brooks

It's no secret that I like to drive. Even though I have had Parkinson's disease symptoms for well over 20 years, thanks to Medtronic DBS, I am still a good driver.

Mr. Brooks is a friend of ours. We met him when he joined the Corvette Club several years ago. He's been single all of his 85 years and he was an only child, so he has no family. He also has a great sense of humor. When asked if he has any children, he winks and says, none that I know of. 

Mr. Brooks with arm in sling at Corvette Club dinner

Mr. Brooks was a rescue crewman in the Navy, which meant he spent most of his Naval career flying high in the air in a helicopter. Just prior to his retirement, the helicopter he was in, crashed. Over the years, he's had replacement parts put in his ankles, knees and shoulders, all damaged in the crash. After a 30-year military career, he went to work as a policeman at the US Army Proving Ground here in Yuma until he totally retired about 20 years ago. 

In the years that we have known Mr. Brooks, he's had to have all of his replacement joints replaced again. Usually, Mr. Brooks would drive himself to the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital in Tucson, Arizona (250 miles away) and they would replace the part, then keep him there until he was well enough to drive himself back home. It seems like he's had something in a brace, cast or sling the entire time we have known him. Sometimes we would pick him up in my car and take him to the Corvette Club functions, so he was used to my driving. 

YumaBev's Sonic

In the Fall of 2016, Mr. Brooks was having a problem with his left ankle and it wasn't something the VA could fix. It would have to be outsourced, and he would need a driver. He asked me if I would be willing to drive him to a hospital in Tucson and drive him back home the next day. He would gladly pay for my hotel room. My Wonderful Husband and I said yes, as long as his surgery date didn't interfere with my own Tucson appointments. 

As it turned out, his surgery was scheduled for the same day as my appointment with Dr. Bradley. He needed to be at his hospital by 5 AM on Monday and my appointment wasn't until 1 PM. I was also scheduled to speak to the University of Arizona Medical School students early Tuesday morning and he wouldn't be released before noon, so all would work out just fine.

There was a small problem though. It was Thanksgiving weekend and there were no reasonably priced hotels to be found in Tucson and we'd need two rooms on Sunday night and one for Monday night. I contacted my Parkie friends Ken and Lisa and asked if all three of us could please stay at their Tucson home. I knew they were out of town for the holiday and Wonderful Hubby and I had stayed at their house in the past.

Luckily, they said yes. So, we packed our bags and I drove my car into Yuma to pick up Mr. Brooks, and we headed for Tucson. We got the keys to our friends house from their neighbor and then drove the route to hospital. I didn't want to be trying to find my way in the early morning darkness. We ate what Mr. Brooks jokingly referred to as his last supper, watched some football on TV and retired to our rooms early. 

I set the alarm for 4 AM and woke to heavy rain and very cold temperatures. Fortunately, we had parked in the garage. My Wonderful Husband hates hospitals, so I left him sleeping. Mr. Brooks was ready early, so I drove slowly to the hospital. I was glad we did a trial run in the daylight the day before. Everything looked different in the darkness and rain. I stayed with Mr. Brooks until they hauled him away on a gurney, made sure the staff had my cell phone number and that I had permission to check on him. Then I drove back to the house and went back to sleep.

After my appointment with my Parkinson's specialist and a quick chat with my DBS neurosurgeon Dr. Norton (they work at the same place), Wonderful Hubby and I went to see Mr. Brooks at his hospital. We walked into his room to find him crawling across the floor from the bathroom. He wasn't able to reach the nurse call button, the urinal or his crutches and he said he had to go. I scolded him and we called a nurse to help get him back in bed. And then I scolded the nursing staff as well. We stayed until they brought him dinner and then headed back to the house, stopping for something to eat on the way.

Tuesday morning, we returned the house keys to the neighbor. I went to speak to the Medical School students, then we drove to the hospital, picked up Mr. Brooks and headed back to Yuma. We made sure he was settled in at his house and came home.

This was the first of many trips to Tucson or Phoenix that I would make with Mr. Brooks. After that first trip, Mr. Brooks would drive one of his cars (he has several) to my house and then hand me the keys and I'd drive the rest of the way. Mr. Brooks always tells the staff at the Doctors office or Hospital that I'm his driver. "Doesn't everyone have a pretty blonde chauffeur?" Mr. Brooks says. When they ask me who I REALLY am, I say I'm his chauffeur. 

This is one of Mr. Brooks cars 

As we are cruising along, Mr. Brooks tells stories about his Naval career. He was part of the ocean pick-up crew for one of the Apollo space missions. He did mountain rescues in the Alps and while there, he travelled all over Europe in an Austin-Healey. He's lived an adventurous life and is still enjoying every day.

Mr. Brooks newest car, and YES, I have driven it too!

I know he must be in pain every day and yet he never complains. We just got back from an overnight stay for another early morning surgery on his left ankle. They had to take a screw out because it was bulging through the side of his calf. This was the third time Mr. Brooks had a 'Screw loose!' as he likes to tell people. I hope this is the last of his replace the replacements surgery and that he's finally done.   

It takes a lot of planning to make these trips. I make sure I know exactly where I am going and memorize alternate routes, just in case. I'm glad I can still drive Mr. Brooks. 

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