Group kicks, screams to delay deteriorating process of Parkinson’s Disease

By Nick Blank Staff Writer
Posted 5/8/19

FLEMING ISLAND – A Clay County group meets twice a week are yelling, stretching and moving to fend off the degenerative process of Parkinson’s Disease.

The ailment affects several muscle …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Group kicks, screams to delay deteriorating process of Parkinson’s Disease

Posted

FLEMING ISLAND – A Clay County group meets twice a week are yelling, stretching and moving to fend off the degenerative process of Parkinson’s Disease.

The ailment affects several muscle groups and wears the body and mind down gradually. But a group of 25 patients and their caregivers work out every Monday and Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in a spacious auxiliary building at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for exercises focusing on ankles, wrists and necks – often while counting and singing.

They also clench their fists to their chest and emit a hearty yell that echoes.

“Wasn’t that beautiful?” supervisor Stan Harris asks with a laugh.

Harris and supervisor Tom Dorsky sit at the front of the class. Harris was diagnosed in 2000, Dorsky in 2015.

The mood of the class is jovial: a woman heckled Dorsky for getting some dates wrong, which led to laughter from the group.

“I can’t win for losing, can I?” he said while raising his hands.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but exercise can deter further degeneration and multi-tasking helps. The symptoms are not limited to shaking. People suffer with sleep difficulties, constipation, vision problems, depression, anxiety and digestive problems.

Dorsky said the group follows the program of the Gary Sobol Parkinson’s Network that targets cognitive abilities, balance, cardio and strengthening participants’ voice. The Fleming Island group formed in 2014 after speech at the University of North Florida.

“People with Parkinson’s tend to withdraw. This is as much a social activity as it is exercise,” Dorsky said. “One of the things you have to be careful of, people with Parkinson’s voices tend to get soft over time. The larynx is nothing but a muscle. People think of Parkinson’s Disease as tremors but it’s internal, external, dementia. It’s not just one thing.”

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, about 930,000 people in the U.S. will be living with the disease by 2020 and 60,000 are diagnosed each year.

The exercise class is free, and the group has frequent dinners and a support group just for caregivers. Harris said residents with Parkinson’s Disease need an outlet and sense of community.

“[The group] is a big source of support for everybody,” Harris said. “Parkinson’s Disease affects all muscles, it’s not just motor skills, the whole human body is affected.”

Sandy May’s husband, Ozro May, 73, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in December. Both were career educators in Clay County and the couple attend the classes weekly. She was thankful she didn’t have to drive to Jacksonville.

“The movement has done him a world of good. It’s a very positive thing for him to stay active,” Sandy May said. “For me as a spouse, it’s like a support group. It makes you feel like you’re not alone.”

Ryan Mitchell and his caregiver Pam said a benefit of the class was they could share issues dealing with the disease with others.

“It’s been a very positive experience,” said Mitchell, who’s been with the class nearly since its inception.

Jaudon Newberg is the caregiver for her husband Curtis Newberg. She said since the group was so close-knit, they looked out for each other. Several encourage each other and egg each other on.

“(My husband) isn’t just shaking, it’s the rigidity, he doesn’t swing his right arm when he walks,” Jaudon Newberg said. “Our group provides positivity, when you leave here, you feel good.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment