The doctor becomes the patient
In 2018, retired primary care physician and medical director Gary Schmidt experienced a life-changing role reversal. The doctor who had spent decades serving others was now a patient taking tests in a neurologist’s office. Gary’s path to that life-changing appointment included several signs that he didn’t realize were LBD symptoms. At the time, he had limited understanding and knowledge of LBD.
A series of missed symptoms
Unbeknownst to Gary, LBD reared its ugly head in the form of REM sleep disorder – a condition characterized by sudden body movements and thrashing while a person is dreaming. In time, his memory, speech, and ability to do mundane tasks declined. Depression and mood swings followed. When Gary struggled to climb stairs and lost his ability to smell aromatic coffee, he made an appointment to visit the neurologist.
He was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and told that he had a high chance of developing LBD. The prediction was soon confirmed as Gary stated experiencing hallucinations and emotional breakdowns. He felt lost and defeated. But this wasn’t Gary – this was Lewy.
Treating LBD on his terms
Gary recognized the irony of being an experienced medical professional who had limited knowledge of LBD. He started researching the disease to learn as much about it as he could. As he continued to educate himself more, his outlook on life improved. Gary recognized that his medical background and his experience living with LBD gave him a unique perspective.
He shared his story during LBDA’s weekly Facebook support group meetings, and now refers to them as “the highlight of [his] week.” Gary encourages care partners and people with LBD that mistakes and blunders are the disease – not the individual. He also reminds them about the importance of raising LBD awareness and sharing their stories, especially with medical professionals.
Despite some setbacks. Gary keeps pushing forward. He has learned that even after an LBD diagnosis, life has much to offer. In Gary’s case, it’s the laughter, smiles and love that he shares with his family as they face the disease together.