My grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) when I was a child. Prior to her diagnosis, she was a gifted musician and was always playing her piano at home or the organ at her church. Until she couldn’t.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive brain disease resulting from the malfunction and death of vital cells in the brain, known as neurons. The neurons are in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, which is the chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. The disease affects each patient differently and the symptoms can change from day to day.
For my grandmother, her symptoms included tremors that affected her ability to play a keyboard.
This all happened prior to the information juggernaut also known as the internet and information on Parkinson’s disease was not as readily available.
But here in the Carolinas, The Parkinson Association of the Carolinas was founded in 2002 as a grassroot regional organization providing resources to North Carolina and South Carolina Parkinson's community.
The Parkinson’s Foundation says approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD each year. The Parkinson’s Foundation Prevalence Project estimates that 930,000 people in the United States will be living with PD by the year 2020. This number is predicted to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.
Nearly 30,000 people in North and South Carolina have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Parkinson Association of the Carolinas provides education, outreach, support and resources for individuals, families and caretakers affected by Parkinson’s disease.
“We hold symposiums in both states throughout the year,” said Parkinson Association of the Carolinas Executive Director Ann Marie Obrikat said. “We do outreach by speaking at various events regarding Parkinson’s disease and our organization and how we serve those with the disease. And we also try and get out and visit our support groups to find out what they need.”
There are 90 support groups throughout both states and Parkinson Association of the Carolinas supports them by providing speakers, topics, research and education
And while the Parkinson Association of the Carolinas provides much-needed support across our states for those struggling with Parkinson’s disease, they could use your support to continue to keep the vast majority of their services free to those who use them.
Parkinson Association of the Carolinas also provides free yoga and dance classes.
“We now know that exercise is so important in helping Parkinson’s patients,” Obrikat said. “It’s much different now than years ago.”
On Saturday, April 13, head to Symphony Park to join the Parkinson Association of the Carolinas for the organization’s 5th annual Move It! Walk to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease. Sign up to walk or take part in #DOGOODWeek and sign up as a day-of volunteer to help set up before the walk or help clean up after the walk. Both are needed!
In addition to DO GOOD Week, The Parkinson Association of the Carolinas has also participated in other community wide giving campaigns such as #GivingTuesdayCLT. During #GivingTuesdayCLT they not only received a generous gift but were able to get the word out about their organization to someone struggling with Parkinson’s who used their resources to tell their family about their diagnosis.