Meeting my first Parkinson’s patient

On the train home today I sat opposite a middle aged man who seemed very uncomfortable with quite a noticeable tremor in both of his hands, twitching feet and he was closing his eyes and screwing his whole face up as if he was wincing in pain.


I didn’t know if he was having DTs from not having enough to drink today, a mild epileptic attack or some other kind of seizure. I wasn’t sure what to do, and nobody else on the train seemed concerned about his condition, so I kept an eye on him for a few stops before asking him if he was OK. I introduced myself to him as a student doctor and he quietly told me that he had Parkinsons, and had a piece of corn stuck in his throat but did not have any water with him. I was concerned if he was going to be OK to make it home by himself as he seemed to be shaking a LOT but he said that he would be fine.


I didn’t have any water to offer him so I gave him a few ‘smint’ mints to suck with the intention of helping him produce some saliva to help dislodge whatever was stuck in his throat. II’m not sure if giving the guy mints was such a great idea after all, as he could have choked on them. It could have been better to have just asked the people on the carriage I was on if anybody had any water. I offered him to come off the train with me at my stop as I knew that there was a small shop there which would be able to give him some water, but he said that he had to stay on the train he was on because he had an off-peak ticket and it was nearly 5pm. What a dilemma!


I feel a bit stupid for doing what I did, as I knew that I had no idea whatsoever about what I was doing but I thought it was better to offer *some* help than just leaving the guy sitting in front of me in quite noticeable discomfort. At least having a chat with the guy and telling him a few jokes might have taken his mind off his pain and made the journey go by a bit faster. I thought it was a positive sign to see him laugh when I told him that the mints I gave him “were ‘anti-cavity’ so they are good for your teeth too.” I said goodbye to him when the train reached my stop and told him that I hope he feels a bit better.


He said he had water in his car at his train stop, which was a couple of stops further down the line, so I’m hoping he got home this evening just fine and is feeling better by now.


Would it have been better of me to have said nothing at all? Did I open a potential duty-of-care/ethics/legal can of worms?





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