The Tribune has a short but compelling article about Harold Richards, who suffers from Lewy body dementia, an ailment that sadly combines the affects of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as well as hallucinations and uncontrolled violence. Last year, the New York Times Magazine‘s “Diagnosis” column was devoted to the disease, which, according to the author, caused Scrooge to hallucinate his Christmas ghosts in A Christmas Carol. After dismissing ergotism (translation: tripping on a mold that grows on rye bread, depicted in a recent episode of House), Alzheimer’s, and a stroke, the author’s neurologist nephew points to a trail of behavioral clues left by the obsessive realist, who describes Scrooge as suffering from the early symptoms of the disease:
The words used to portray Scrooge might apply to many with Parkinson’s disease: expressionless, rigid, nearly immobile. . . . He also has a tremor, a symptom common in Parkinson’s as well as in this strange dementia. But the hallmark of Lewy body disease is the real clincher in this diagnosis: vivid and detailed hallucinations featuring friends and relatives are common. And like Scrooge’s visions, these phantasms are distressing, often terrifying. Finally, in Lewy body dementia, hallucinations occur early in the disease, frequently before the cognitive deficits are apparent.
So if you’re wondering what might have happened to Scrooge after making up with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, the Trib‘s depressing parable about one man and the failure of the state’s mental-treatment resources is one possibility.