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Event creates community for people with Parkinson’s disease

September 9, 2018

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Mona Wells outlined a prancing horse and filled it with warm shades of watercolor paint.

Beside her, Gaynelle Gray created an image of a tree and a pastel blue sky.

Both women have Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative nerve disorder.

That didn’t stop them from creating intricate art, ranging from paintings to gel print pictures, at Stillwater’s Prairie Arts Center.

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease and their family members gathered for the art session, part of the first Oklahoma State University Parkinson’s Disease Bootcamp. The three-day boot camp included a variety of activities and informative presentations. It gave participants opportunities to socialize, gain confidence in their abilities and learn more about living with Parkinson’s disease.

Sabiha Parveen, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at OSU, organized the event, which was funded through the Arts and Sciences Community Engagement Grant. Parveen leads a Parkinson’s support group in Stillwater and focuses her research on the disease.

“Our goal was to do a three-day event where we bring different presenters and talk about resources that are available in Stillwater,” Parveen told the Stillwater News Press . “And kind of help the community with just managing their symptoms, educating them a little bit more about resources and other aspects of the disease.”

Parkinson’s disease occurs when nerve cells in the brain decompose or die. That leaves patients with lower levels of dopamine, a chemical messenger, leading to atypical brain activity. People with Parkinson’s disease often experience changes in behaviors such as movement and speech.

For Wells, a Stillwater resident, it started with an unusually shaky finger. She learned she had Parkinson’s disease 11 years ago.

“When I had my annual physical checkup with my physician, I told her about (the finger), and she told me to put out my hands,” Wells said. “She could see that both of them were shaking. I wasn’t aware of that.”

Although Wells said the biggest challenge she faces with the disease is decreased self-esteem, the art session provided her with a channel for her talents.

“I’ve enjoyed drawing ever since I was a kid in school and I would draw on my notebook as I was listening to the teacher,” Wells said.

Wells said she also liked the laughing yoga session, a favorite among multiple boot camp participants.

Gray expressed her appreciation for the diet and nutrition presentation. A former elementary teacher in Lawton, Gray said she moved to Stillwater because of Parkinson’s disease. She chose to live closer to her son after receiving the diagnosis about eight months ago.

In her new community, Gray is trying to soak up all the information she can, attending Parveen’s support group meetings along with the boot camp.

“I really want to learn more about Parkinson’s, and I learn each time I am with someone,” Gray said.

The event also benefited caregivers of people with Parkinson’s disease. Debby Rutherford traveled from Tulsa with Jim, her husband, who has lived with Parkinson’s for about four years. As he created five gel prints and mixed some watercolors, she happily noticed his enthusiasm.

“Sometimes, a symptom (of Parkinson’s) is apathy and not wanting to try,” Debby Rutherford said. “But when they get together in the group, then they’ll try. I never thought he would participate like this, but he’s just going for it, having a great time.”

Parveen said the boot camp had 51 participants on the first day and 45 on the second day, along with seven OSU student volunteers. She explained that she hopes to continue the event annually and to increase funding for the Parkinson’s disease support group, which meets the first Tuesday of each month.

“That’s why our small community of Stillwater is way ahead of other towns where there’s no support group,” Parveen said. “I think it’s very important to have a support system.”


Information from: Stillwater News Press, http://www.stwnewspress.com

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