On a Thursday evening in March 2007, one of my clients called and asked if I could travel from my home in Florida and be in California by noon the following day. He assured me that I would be home four days later.
As it turned out, I returned home six weeks later having closed one of the most complicated, contentious and stressful transactions of my legal career. By the time I finally made it back to Miami, FL, I realized that I had lost the ability to write my name and typing was all but impossible.
After seeing my general practitioner and an orthopedic doctor, I found myself at a neurologist. When the neurologist asked, “What can I do for you today”? I just laughed and I said “I think I have that disease — carpal tunnel syndrome.” He laughed back and said, “You have Parkinson’s disease.” He put the medication Azilect in my hand and said “Take this and if it works, then we will know that I am right.”
Little did I know that that was to be the beginning of this adventure that 16 years later I know to be Parkinson’s disease (PD).
I had heard about Parkinson’s disease, but no one in my family had it. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who had Parkinson’s disease. Thankfully, I didn’t have the crushing depression or debilitating anger that many people experience upon being diagnosed. I suspect that I didn’t know better, but I acknowledge that those reactions are real and must be addressed early in the diagnosis.
That’s where a referral to the Parkinson’s Foundation can be life changing. Through its initiative for those newly diagnosed, the Foundation fills the void of critical information most people with PD lack regarding their recent diagnosis. Often times, the diagnosing physician is too busy to provide a sufficient explanation on how to live a quality life with Parkinson’s disease.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, I was introduced to the Parkinson’s Foundation. My wife and I were invited to participate in a weeklong retreat for those newly diagnosed and their care partners. There, my wife and I became yoga fanatics. It was that introduction by the Foundation to the power of exercise in the fight against Parkinson’s that forever changed the trajectory of the disease for me.
Since my first encounter, I have been continuously engaged with the Foundation. I have participated in virtually every Moving Day Miami. I’ve spoken on behalf of the Foundation at many events. I also currently serve on the national Board of Directors.
It was that early introduction to the Parkinson’s Foundation, however, and their vast resources of information and support, as well as an incredible community of like-minded people, that really attracted me to the Parkinson’s Foundation. The mission of the Foundation to make life better today for people living with Parkinson’s all while advancing research toward a cure really resonates with me.
I have spent the last several months traveling across the country with my friend, Scott Rider, filming a documentary for a project titled Parkinson’s Across America. Our hope is to provide an informative, yet personal look at what it means to be living with Parkinson’s and to remind people that they can live long and productive lives despite their diagnosis.
While many of the people I have met share stories that include aspects of tremendous heartbreak and difficulty, each offers incredible hope and encouragement to those of us in the Parkinson’s community. One of the common sentiments that resonates so clearly with me is that, despite the difficulty that people living with Parkinson’s disease cope with every day, there is an incredible sense of gratitude for people, like the people at the Parkinson’s Foundation, who make it their life’s work helping people with Parkinson’s live better lives today.
The people of the Parkinson’s Foundation share a passion and commitment for making life better for people living with Parkinson’s that is unrivaled. Without a doubt, they are changing lives. I’m here to tell you that they certainly have changed my life and, for that, I am eternally grateful.
To be associated with an organization that is truly making a difference in people’s lives every day is an honor and a privilege. I am sincerely honored and humbled to be selected this year’s Paul Oreffice Volunteer of the Year.