My father was diagnosed with Parkinsonism in 2019, which likely resulted from a traumatic head injury. He was a successful and well-respected orthopedic surgeon for almost 40 years in Chicago, IL. He was the first to bring many bone surgeries to Chicago in the 1970s and ‘80s.
As a pioneering surgeon, he loved helping others as a physician, so much so that he didn't want to retire, even into his 70s. He was known as a no-nonsense surgeon, who always thought of surgery as a last option, not the first — which was something rare in the ‘80s and ‘90s and is even rarer now.
He didn't need to work anymore, as he had provided for his family for years and deserved retirement. We finally convinced him to retire so that he could work on his golf and tennis games! Sadly, less than five years into his retirement, he had a bad fall and then started to experience symptoms consistent with Parkinson’s disease. It slowly took away his independence and forced him to accept assistance. We are still unsure what form of parkinsonism he has as it has progressed for the past three years, quite quickly, making his ability to walk and talk very limited.
I did not know much about Parkinson's before my father's diagnosis, but since then, I have become a student of the disease, and have been raising thousands of dollars for the Parkinson’s Foundation by donating all the proceeds from the T-shirts I sell at my comedy shows. I travel the country as a stand-up comedian, promoting my "Better Call Paul" shirts at my shows — I used to be a lawyer so it's a wink and nod to the show "Better Call Saul!”
I regularly hear stories from others who have been personally affected by Parkinson’s and continue to learn more about this disease and its wide-ranging impact. Many of these conversations and connections end with tears and hugs with fellow family members who have suffered and lost.
When it comes helping your loved one with Parkinson’s, talk to as many people who have been affected by Parkinson’s as possible, read as much as you can, be an advocate for your loved one and be positive.
In December 2022, I launched Stand Up for Parkinson’s, a Comedy Night supporting the Parkinson’s Foundation Midwest Chapter. I hope to continue my work with the Parkinson’s Foundation in the coming years!
Looking for ways to help your local PD community? Learn more on our How You Can Help page.