Stephen's Story: A Little Tremor Wasn't Going to Stop Me

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stephen (right) with his Case Manager, Andy.

Putting the luggage down, Stephen noticed a slight tremor in his left hand. Strange sensation he thought as he stared down at his hand.  Shrugging it off as a side effect of being tired; he picked up the luggage and continued on his way.

That was the spring of 2009 and Stephen was working several jobs at a mid-sized hotel including, but not limited to, banquet waiter, porter, front desk, dining room service – kind of like a jack of all trades.

As that summer progressed, he noticed the tremors were now in both hands and that his energy level was dropping, so much so, that there were several times he thought he was going to faint.

“It also was getting harder to hide my symptoms from my co-workers,” says Stephen. “My slight tremors had now turned to shakes, loud noises were making me nervous and I was unable to do banquet and dining room service tasks as it was simply too tiring.”

No matter how Stephen tried to hide his symptoms, “and believe me I tried”, he wasn't being successful because he had no idea what was happening to his body. People started staring and making assumptions – like maybe the tremors and shakes were a result of him drinking.  Stephen was nervous about admitting that his body was changing and he did not know why. Added to this was the stress of constantly worrying about what other people were thinking and saying around him.

“In the fall of 2010, there was a medical convention going on in town and the hotel I was working at was part of the conference,” says Stephen. “As I was assisting one of the hotel guests, who was a Doctor, he asked how long I had Parkinson's.  I asked him how he knew I had Parkinson's and he told me he was a Doctor and recognized some of my symptoms as Parkinson's.”

Finally Stephen had a name for what was happening to him. He went to the Foothills Hospital and received the official diagnosis in 2010. Knowing he had Parkinson's provided Stephen with the opportunity to be able to disclose to his employer. Together, they drew up a plan to provide accommodations to allow Stephen to continue to do his work. Simple accommodations such as not working the late shift, reducing the amount of weight he lifted, and the chance to sit down when he got tired.

Eventually, Stephen’s conditions worsened to where he had to go on medical leave and prepare for the new path his life was taking. Not sure what that path was to look like – Stephen found out about Champions through his Doctor and made an appointment to attend Orientation.

“Champions gave me the moral support and confidence I needed to start believing in myself again,” says Stephen. “The staff makes me laugh and they introduced me to other people in Calgary who were struggling with chronic medical conditions.  They also helped connect me to supports in the community, such as AISH. I felt like I finally belonged.”

Champions help Calgarians to see people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions differently.  They focus on the abilities and strengths of each individual and how they contribute to the overall fibre of the community – building a diverse, inclusion community where everyone is valued for themselves.


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