ELKO — Michael J. Fox said, “I discovered that I was part of a Parkinson’s community with similar experiences and similar questions that I’d been dealing with alone.”
April is “World Parkinson’s Awareness Month” and to show its support the City issued a proclamation to the Elko Parkinson’s Support Group Friday in recognition of Parkinson’s Disease.
There was a public presentation by Mayor Chris Johnson at the March 22 council meeting.
“This is more of a formal presentation that we’re conducting today,” said Councilman Robert Schmidtlein.
“It’s awareness of Parkinson’s Disease,” said member Pat Reilly about the City’s proclamation.
Schmidtlein, accompanied by Councilman Reece Keener and Assistant City Manager Scott Wilkinson, presented the proclamation to Elko’s support group, which is affiliated with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association through the Reno chapter.
“My father, who passed away last year, fought Parkinson’s for 26 years. So, I know a lot about the mechanics, the issues that come with Parkinson’s,” said Schmidtlein, explaining why this proclamation has meaning to him.
“The biggest issue I had myself — and all my brothers and sisters — was pulling my dad’s driver’s license from him,” he said.
Schmidtlein said his father drove for about 20 years with Parkinson’s and approximately 75 years altogether.
The group meets at 12:45 p.m. the first Friday of every month at Griswold Hall at 701 Walnut St. for informational and support sessions done via teleconference with the Reno Parkinson’s Disease Support Group.
Often professionals will speak to the group, including physical, occupational and speech therapists as well as neurologists.
“My husband was diagnosed six years ago with Parkinson’s Disease. So, it was kind of our first date to come to this,” said Reilly.
She explained her husband spoke highly about those involved because “this was all new to him. He didn’t know anybody who had Parkinson’s.”
Reilly’s husband was able to come to the meetings at first but, due to his work schedule, he can no longer make the Friday meetings.
“So, I come, take notes and share what we’ve talked about,” said Reilly.
“I think the main purpose is information because we’re so rural,” she said, explaining that Elko no longer has a neurologist, so many members either travel to a major city to see a doctor, or see someone through a teleconference with the Cleveland Clinic.
“The support is the coolest thing because everybody has gotten to know each other over the years and understands some of the difficulties — even though the disease has very many variables,” she said, explaining the disease is different for everyone.
However, there are some common threads and helping one another out can be immensely beneficial.
Reilly said the people she has met have been “very independent.”
Sometimes family members even come to the group as a resource to be able to support and know more about Parkinson’s for his or her loved one — even if the diagnosed family member doesn’t live locally.
“They want to be aware of what goes on with Parkinson’s so that when they get a chance to talk to the family … they have more information,” said Reilly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement and develops gradually. It sometimes starts with a slight, barely noticeable tremor in an individual’s hand.
Tremors can be attributed as the most well known sign of Parkinson’s. However, stiffness and the slowing of movement can be associated.
There are also non-motor symptoms such as mood and sleep disorders.
Although the Parkinson’s is incurable, it can be noticeably improved by medication.
“... there’s no standard treatment for the disease – the treatment for each person with Parkinson’s is based on his or her symptoms,” stated the National Parkinson Foundation.
In fact, many of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s are still active community members and work full-time jobs.
There are some activities set up through the Reno affiliation, such as an Ace’s game or the walk-a-thon. The members of the support group are also kept abreast of conferences pertaining to the subject.
“I think all of us keep on track about Parkinson’s. We’re all pretty well informed by sharing what we do know, or what experience we’ve had. We’ve made a real difference in each other’s lives,” said Reilly.
More information about the group can be found by calling Tish Stevens at 753-7599 or Steve Parish at 738-7779.