From Physician to Patient – A Salute to Dr. Thomas Graboys – MD and Parkinson’s Memoirist

We lost another wonderful physician this month- Dr. Thomas Graboys, died January 5th, 2015  after a 12 year struggle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. Notwithstanding his accomplishments as a clinical professor at Brighams and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School and president emeritus of the Lown Cardiavasulcar Research Foundation, it is his autobiography, Life in the Balance: A Physician’s Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia that may lay the foundation of his legacy.

A few excerpts:

“My face is often expressionless, though I still look younger than my 63 years.  I am stooped. I shuffle when I walk, and my body trembles. My train of thought regularly runs off the rails.”

“ There is no sugarcoating Parkinson’s.  There is no silver lining here.  There is anger, pain, and frustration at being victimized by a disease that can to some extent be managed but cannot be cured.
Control over my body is a formidable, ongoing struggle of mind over matter.  As the disease progresses, my sense of myself erodes in parallel and I mourn those bits and pieces as I would the loss of a loved one.”

“ I have watched as huge swaths of my abilities have calved like chucks of ice falling from a glacier into the sea. My circle of friends has shrunk, the role I used to play in family life has diminished dramatically, and my medical career is over.”

On the contrary, Dr. Graboys’ career will live on in perpetuity through the lessons he teaches us all in his book.  This should be a must read for all therapists, young and old to remind us how lucky we are if we are healthy, and to fine tune our empathy for our patients.  Dr. Abigail  Zuger, in her review of the book  called it, a “textbook of the graceful and courageous exit”.


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