Parkinson's patients share struggles, hope

Gov. Jay Nixon greets members of a Parkinson’s group that gathered in his office for a proclamation signing. Afterward, he gave a brief history lesson about the uniqueness of the governor’s office.

Gov. Jay Nixon greets members of a Parkinson’s group that gathered in his office for a proclamation signing. Afterward, he gave a brief history lesson about the uniqueness of the governor’s office. Photo by Deborah Cote.

For most people with Parkinson’s, the journey to simply being diagnosed can be long and hard.

After diagnosis, they may struggle with a host of symptoms and how to adapt to the new challenges their life may pose as the disease progresses.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Nixon signed a proclamation making April Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Missouri. Many say that is a great stepping stone to more research and attention on the disease, which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system characterized by tremor and impaired muscular coordination.

Richard Ferguson says he has had Parkinson’s for four years, that he knows of, though the Jefferson City man suspects he has had the disease since a surgery six years ago.

“I did not bounce back like I should have,” he said, waiting to be let into the governor’s office.

Ferguson said his movements were slower after the surgery. Then he started having tremors and taking medications to help those.

“I couldn’t do anything like I used to, and I didn’t think my surgery had that much to do with it,” Ferguson said. Four years ago, he was diagnosed.

In 2000, when Stacey Hooper’s pinky started shaking, Parkinson’s disease was the furthest thing from his mind.

Hooper’s story is unique, as he had just turned 30 when he was diagnosed. Most are decades older at the time of diagnosis.

Hooper, his wife, Melanie, and their son, Gavin, waited with nearly 40 others who came to see the governor sign the proclamation.

“I just hope it means more research,” Stacey said.

Reva Ferguson, Richard’s wife, said the acknowledgment from the governor gave them hope.

“I hope this leads to research and to new medications,” she said. “With Parkinson’s, you take it one day at a time with the Lord.”

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