WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Parkinson’s Disease can be cruel and devastating. This is true not only for those diagnosed with the disease but also family and caregivers.
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system, often resulting in tremors, stiffness, dementia, hallucinations, muscular rigidity, and slow imprecise movements. It typically affects those with an average age of 60. Currently, there are nearly 1 million people in the U.S., and over 10 million worldwide are living with Parkinson’s.
In Wichita, individuals who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, as well as their caregivers, can find support at Club Parkinson’s, a nonprofit fitness, wellness, education, and support center.
KSN’s Jason Lamb knows firsthand the effect Parkinson’s can have on a family. His father, Marvin of Topeka, was diagnosed with the disease six years ago. Jason says he wishes his dad had a resource like Club Parkinson’s, one of only a handful of its kind in the country.
Bruce Pafume of Wichita was diagnosed with Parkinson’s one year ago.
“Our granddaughter noticed and asked, ‘Grandpa, why aren’t you smiling anymore?’ because his expression had gone to that flat expression,” said Joanne Pafume of her husband.
Debbie Laudermilk, also of Wichita, says her first symptom was her thumb “jumping around.”
“It was for a long time. Months and months,” said Laudermilk.
Leading to her diagnosis two and a half years ago.
“When you get a diagnosis like that of a scary disease, you want to know what can I do to live the best life I can?” said Laudermilk.
“There’s a big gap between diagnosis and living well with the disease,” said Club Parkinson’s Co-Founder Shana Gatschet.
Gatschet and Connie Urbanek co-founded Club Parkinson’s a year ago. Gatschet has a background in occupational therapy. Urbanek served as a physical therapist assistant.
“Currently, Parkinson’s Disease is the fastest-growing brain disease. About every nine minutes, someone is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease,” said Urbanek. “And in another alarming fact, we expect in the next 20 years for the number of people with Parkinson’s Disease to double.”
In its first year, membership has grown from 12 to 55 members. And they’re seeing results.
“Well, it hasn’t advanced. I consider that a plus,” said Bruce.
“One of the things we learned early on is the role exercise plays,” said Joanne.
“So we are maintaining or delaying symptoms, which is very rewarding as co-founders,” added Urbanek.
“We are so grateful to see the progress, the benefits that people make through Club Parkinson’s. We have some members who weren’t sure if they were going to make their granddaughter’s wedding, and they made it. We have another member who actually got back on the golf course after thinking he’d never get back there. So, story after story of benefits and living their best with Parkinson’s,” said Gatschet.
“Everything has a purpose to understand the disease better. To understand what to do to help minimize the effects of Parkinson’s and to live the best life possible,” said Laudermilk.
Club Parkinson’s meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Wichita State University Heskett Center, 1845 Fairmount Street.