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When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast: Travelling and catching up with family

This is a special bonus episode of When Life Gives You Parkinson’s which we are calling “Extra Dosage.” Full episodes will be released every other Wednesday. In between, Niki and I will share new information, original interviews and extra material that provide more context to topics raised in the previous episodes of the podcast. We’ll also answer your questions. Feel free to write us at [email protected].  

In this extra dosage episode of the When Life Gives You Parkinson’s podcast, I tell Niki Reitmayer all about my trip to Florida.

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I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in August 2017. I haven’t seen my brothers Bruce and Dan or my sister Tracy since I received the news. That changed on Jan. 31. Our Mom, who lives in Florida, invited us all down to stay in a beach house on Anna Marie Island on the Gulf Coast near Tampa. My siblings arrived separately along with some of their kids who now have their own kids. There were 18 of us in total.

I was nervous.

We haven’t vacationed together in 20 years. When we do get together for holidays or special events, it is separated by years and we’re only together for a few hours at a time. And still, inevitably, someone ends up crying.

But even before the family reunion part, I was nervous about flying. Vancouver, B.C., to Tampa, Fla., with a stop in Minneapolis, Minn., is a long stretch of flying. I was concerned about timing my medication correctly as we skipped through time zones. I was certain my feet and legs would cramp and stiffen on the flight. This would be my first time travelling with walking sticks. And what if I start to tremor? What if I have an anxiety attack in the airport? What if …?

Deep breath.

I can tell you now the anticipation was far more anxious than the trip. Everything was great.

Here’s how I handled the airport.

I wanted to be comfortable and confident, so I wore layers of loose-fitting clothing including a shirt with a pocket for easy access to my passport and boarding pass. I used a backpack for carry-on items including a book, phone chargers, water, healthy snacks, and lots of Levodopa. (Do not pack your meds in checked baggage. I was happy to have it with me when we ran into seven hours of delays on our return trip.) Anytime I am in crowds, I use my walking sticks, so they came along for the ride, too.

When we checked in at the airline counter, I alerted them that I have Parkinson’s and would like to have a wheelchair or golf cart assistance at my layover in Minneapolis. I wanted to make sure I made the connection and didn’t exhaust myself traversing through four concourses. I also traveled with my wife and son, which gave me extra eyes and ears and peace of mind if I lost focus or became disoriented maneuvering the airport hallways and crowds. We always opted to pre-board to take extra time to get on board and get settled.

Once on the plane, I sat in the aisle seat to give myself quick access to stand up if I started to feel cramping or an urgent need to use the facilities. I collapsed my walking sticks and put them in the overhead storage. I stretched my feet and legs as much as possible during the flight and drank water to stay hydrated. The days we flew were long days, and my pill schedule was out of whack a bit, but I was able to take it in stride and slept like a baby each of those nights.

The reunion was great. Lots of stories, laughter and reconnecting. On this episode, you’ll hear more of my journey to Florida including a stop at Universal Studios and our attempt to get an Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) to avoid long lines and a discussion with my brothers, sister and me. I ask them what it’s like seeing me in the flesh with Parkinson’s, how PD has impacted them and their families, and we try to re-calibrate our relationships with each other. They also pepper me with a couple behind the scenes podcast questions you might enjoy.

If you have a comment or question about the podcast, you can email us: [email protected]

Follow me, Larry Gifford 

Twitter: @ParkinsonsPod


Instagram: @parkinsonspod

Follow Co-host and Producer Niki Reitmeyer

Twitter: @Niki_Reitmayer

Special thanks to Bruce Gifford, Dan Gifford, Tracy Cherry, Marty Gifford, and Rebecca Gifford

For more info on our partner, Parkinson Canada, head to

Here is a link to an article about Young Onset Parkinson’s which also discusses employment

The toll-free hotline 1-800-565-3000

Or follow them on Twitter:

Parkinson Canada            @ParkinsonCanada

Parkinson Society BC      @ParkinsonsBC

When Life Gives You Parkinson’s was selected as one of Apple’s best podcasts of 2018. 

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