Agent Orange

Unlike others who come in to the movement disorder physician to have a consultation and their medications adjusted, the couple comes in because they are seeking complete medical care from the government, due to exposure to Agent Orange. Rather than being sprayed, or having to wade through sprayed greenery, as alot of Vietnam veterans did, the patient lugged a backpack through the swamps of Georgia, that had been defoliated with Agent Orange, to simulate the environment that awaited them. Cuts from barbed-wire allowed the toxin to enter his system. Years later he began experiencing the first signs of early- onset Parkinson’s disease, cramps in his feet that caused his toes to curl in.

They are soft spoken but direct and come with all their documents and MRIs. The patient is a tall man, though his mannerisms bring Michael J. Fox to mind, it may be his fluid dyskinesias and the way he clenches his jaw. He has been seen by several well-known physicians, their notes are in his chart. An experimental study in which he underwent neurosurgery and implantation of dopamine-rich cells from the retina gave him about a week where he needed significantly less medication.

He is sixty-two. His children have married. As he leaves the office the effect of his medication is waning. He is cautious rising from the chair, and as he moves through the doorway, he takes short shuffling steps on the balls of his feet. His arms are out seeking the walls, should he fall. The doctor comments he could use the wheelchair and the medical student helps the patient into the seat.

Notes: Agent Orange got its name from the orange identifying stripe on the side of the 55 gallon drums of herbicide. The Rainbow Herbicide program of the department of defense included an Agent White and Agent Blue, though the Orange was the most common. From 1961 to 1971 the United States military sprayed more than 19 million gallons of herbicides on four military zones in Vietnam to rid the land of tropical foliage. Prior to that, the department of defense tested various quantities of herbicides throughout many southern states.


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