Robert Bowles was born and raised in Thomaston. He graduated from R. E. Lee in 1965, and from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in 1970. In 1971 he became licensed to practice pharmacy in Georgia and returned to Thomaston. He opened and ran Big C Pharmacy for 38 years. During that time he specialized in the area of pain management in the terminally ill patient, diabetes management, and was a board certified fitter of therapeutic shoes. After a successful career, he sold Big C to Walgreen’s in December 2010 in preparation for retirement, continuing to work as a pharmacist for Walgreen’s for 15 months.
But shortly after he sold the pharmacy, in February 2011, his doctor put him on an anti-depressant. Robert said it first affected him at work.
“When the pharmacist came in to relieve me, I was 70 prescriptions behind,” Robert said. “My mind was clear, however my feet were barely moving.”
Then it got worse.
“I was sleeping 14 to 20 hours per day, having hallucinations and acting out dreams,” Robert said. “My blood pressure would drop when I got up out of a chair; and my blood pressure would be high when I laid down. The floor and I developed a very intimate relationship.”
His doctors took him off of the anti-depressant, but it still took him almost 20 months to begin recovering from the reactions caused by the medicine. Meanwhile, Robert went to see a cardiologist.
“I was diagnosed with what is called Neurocardiogenic Syncope Fainting. Basically, my blood pressure would drop to 60/40 when I stood up and when I laid down, it would get high. After the cardiologist had me on seven pills a day to raise my blood pressure and two pills a night to lower it, he told me one day that he didn’t know what else to do and thought something else must be going on and sent me to a neurologist in Macon,” Robert continued. “The first time I saw the neurologist, he told me I had Parkinson’s Disease. I went back in a month and he told me he didn’t think that I had Parkinson’s, that I had Frontotemporal Dementia, but that he would be sending me to the Cognitive Care Unit at Emory. They told me it would be the second visit before I would be given a diagnosis. At the conclusion of the first visit, the doctor told me that I had Lewy Body Dementia (LBD). I have since found that I had 100 percent of the symptoms that are found in LBD.
“I think all the doctors were on track. Lewy Body Dementia is often not diagnosed. Often, people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or Parkinson’s Dementia may have LBD. The fact that I was passing out was caused by the neuro-degeneration. And that just happened to be my first symptom. My mind was clear when I saw the cardiologist. It was getting a little worse when I saw the neurologist. With the first visit, tremors were the biggest thing. When I went back the second visit, the memory became an issue. So it was progressing to the point that the neurologist trained in LBD was able to make the correct diagnosis.
“The symptoms of Lewy Body Dementia resemble both Alzheimers and Parkinson’s,” Robert stated. “It is basically like getting hit with a double-barrel shotgun.” Plus, he added, LBD patients have a sensitivity to certain medicines, like the anti-depressant he had been put on, which can cause serious and sometimes even life-threatening side effects.
Shortly after being diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, Robert came to a conclusion about his life.
“It finally occurred to me, when I sold my drugstore, that I quit living – I lost my purpose for life,” Robert said. “I have since found my purpose in life, and that is to take the fact that I am a Lewy Body Dementia patient, and I am a pharmacist, and I want to take the rest of my life and spread the awareness all across the United States about medication sensitivity and Lewy Body Dementia.”
Robert’ first step in spreading the word will be a Lewy Body Dementia Awareness event being held on
Saturday, October 19, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Park Lane, which is the old East Thomaston school complex. He is planning on it being a fun family day that also educates people about LBD and medication sensitivities.
The McDonough Marine Corps League Color Guard will be present, as will 1986 World Series MVP Ray Knight of the New York Mets, who will be available to sign autographs and pictures. There will be raffles for a golf cart, and a 32-inch flat screen TV donated by State Farm Agent Trennis Dumas.
There will also be a raffle for a special quilt. Robert’s wife Judy and Gail Hand started making the quilt prior to Robert being diagnosed with LBD. Dana Brew and Wendy Woodruff helped them complete the quilt after his diagnosis. Ironically, the purple color in the quilt is the same color in the Lewy Body Dementia Association’s logo. To Robert, the reversed “L’s” are symbolic of his “scrambled brain” and let’s “reverse dementia.” Tickets for the quilt may be purchased at the following locations: Cherokee Pharmacy, Northside Drugs, Thomaston Prescription Shop, and Walgreens. Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5.
Dr. Charbel Moussa, the Head of the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism Department of Neuroscience at Georgetown University School of Medicine, will be present to talk about LBD, as will pharmacists to discuss medication sensitivities. There will also be tables for experts in child abuse and awareness, First Baptist Church ministries, Westwood Christian Academy, Thomaston Hospice, and Talbot Recovery Campus in Atlanta.
For children, there will be inflatable slides, music, a Halloween contest with prizes, cake walk, face painting, who hair, cotton candy and more.
Robert is looking for volunteers to help. To contact him, email him at robertRobert.email@example.com. All net proceeds from the event will go to the Lewy Body Dementia Association in Lilburn. A tax deductible contribution can be made at www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/robertRobert/lewybodydementiaawarenessevent.
“I want us to have a fun-filled day as we bring awareness about Lewy Body Dementia so that lives of patients and caregivers will be better,” Robert said.