Shaky hands

Bill is a 69-year old client whose hands shake very badly.

(In case you’re wondering, it’s important that it’s only his hands. If he had Parkinson’s-like tremors, then I would think it might be…well, Parkinson’s. But no, only his hands shake.)

Unfortunately the shaking has gotten progressively worse over the last 4 years. Now when he holds a glass he nearly spills what he’s drinking. When he writes, the letters come out machine-gun style, with dots where he has to hesitate to control the shake.


Notice that his hands shake so badly the photo is blurred!

I’ve watched this progress and it makes me sad. You see, Bill is a family member. He has a loving wife, an amazing daughter, and three grandkids who think the world of him. He’s always at family functions. And it pains me to see his condition impacting his life and relationships.

Two years ago, I wrote to his daughter,

Woke up in the middle of the night with an ‘Aha!’ moment for a client. Looked at seminar notes for connections to her case and saw one to your dad’s: Shaky hands can be due to elevations of a protein called TGFb1. He can ask his doc to run a blood test for it.”

Let me repeat, that was two years ago.

(If you’re into the science of TGFb1, you can get a quick intro here.)

In any case, Bill’s daughter and I decided I would delicately broach the subject at our next family get-together. Thankfully Bill was very receptive. I suggested he ask his doctor to run the TGFb1 test and he said he would.

Fast forward to this June at his grandson’s birthday party. Multiple doctor visits, his condition much worse, and multiple blood tests later, Bill’s doctor still had not ordered TGFb1.

Why, you might ask? Fair question. I can only think of two reasons: 1) Doctors are often resistant to thinking that’s outside the normal medical paradigm. 2) Moola. Bill has my least favorite insurance provider, one that allows only the most stripped-down, bargain basement blood tests. But TGFb1 is an expensive test. Even at the screaming discounts our office gets from Quest Diagnostics, TGFb1 still costs over $100.

But I’d finally had enough. I said, “Bill, let’s just bypass your insurance completely and run that test from Quest.” Apparently he’d had enough too, because he agreed.

So Bill paid the test cost out of pocket and we finally ran it. Of course it was expensive compared to basic blood tests.

But let me ask you: How much is your health worth? I mean, how much would you pay to stop your hands shaking so badly you almost spill anything you drink?  When I think about how often I use my hands, the answer is simple: every penny I had.

If you go deeper, it’s not an expense at all; it’s an investment. You realize that when you’ve been sick. The old adage is true: it doesn’t matter how much money you have…if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

So Bill decided to invest in hands that work right. Hello…worth it!

And his investment paid off, because he finally got an answer. Remember, elevations of TGFb1 can lead to shaky hands…

Bills TGFb1 Results

7260 versus a high normal of 2382! Triple high normal!

I bet it’s been this way since before his hands even started shaking. Had his doctor just run the test two years ago when we first asked, his condition wouldn’t have progressed this far.

The solution is fairly simple: a low dose of a common prescription drug. (When I say solution, I mean the medical intervention. The deeper solution would be to find out why Bill’s TGFb1 is elevated. But that’s a longer process I’m not sure he’s ready for.)

In the meantime, Bill is going to ask his doctor for the prescription. Given the guy’s track record, I’m not holding my breath.

Still, here’s hoping he’ll be like many doctors: more open to prescribing drugs than to running tests to find out if the drugs he’s prescribing are even needed.

But that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother conversation…