Meghann Tucker knows what it’s like to watch someone she loves struggle. In 2010, his brother Marc suffered a spinal cord injury in an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
But the family has come together and Marc continues to lead a successful and independent life. The experience also changed the course of Meghann’s life, prompting her to pursue a career in physiotherapy.
As a physiotherapist assistant with the Southeast Georgia Health System, Tucker offers a unique compassion that stems from her brother’s injury. It also led her to look for ways to help more people.
A few years ago, she started to think about Parkinson’s disease patients and the fact that there were few options for them.
âI heard about the Big LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) program when I was in school and it touched me a lot, probably because of my brother’s accident. He had a spinal cord injury and Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder, âshe explained.
LSVT Big has actually evolved from a speech therapy technique. The original system was funded by the National Institute for Deafness and other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health, but has been adapted over time to make it easier for people with Parkinson’s to travel.
âFor me, I wanted to offer PD patients something to give them hope. It’s a population that has suddenly received this diagnosis that your body is slowly betraying you and there is no cure, âshe said. âThe LSVT Big program gives them a bit of their life back. They can be more independent and have more functions for a little longer.
Tucker brought the idea to Charles (Monty) Henderson, a physiotherapist, who jumped at the opportunity to bring the program to Glynn County.
âMeghann was really interested in it and saw a need for more help for patients with Parkinson’s disease. But she needed a physiotherapist to do the assessments and work with, so she asked me if I was interested. I was very excited about it, âhe said.
âIt’s a program derived from speech therapy, but it places more emphasis on range of motion to help retrain the brain,â he said.
In patients with Parkinson’s disease, the disease causes an alteration in the cells that create dopamine, a chemical messenger or neurotransmitter responsible for controlling movement, emotional responses, and the ability to experience pleasure and pain. As the disease progresses, more cells die off and the brain eventually stops producing significant amounts of dopamine.
That, Henderson says, can have an impact on movement as well. The slower flow of brain signals causes patients to move more slowly over time.
âYou may think you are moving well, but you are actually making smaller and smaller movements. This is why people with Parkinson’s disease tend to wiggle their feet when they move. The LSVT Big program works to retrain the brain through exaggerated or heavy movement exercises. The point is to get them used to doing the big moves and making it look normal, when it does seem really abnormal at first, âhe said. âIt can help with stability, balance and walking speed. A side effect is improved vocal and writing ability.
Since becoming involved with patients with Parkinson’s disease, Henderson has learned a lot, not only about the therapy, but also about the local prevalence of the disease.
âI was really surprised. I have met a lot of people who need our help and this program is helping them. It offers hope and a chance to be a little more independent,â said Henderson.
Parkinson’s disease is much more common than many realize.
It is now the second most common degenerative neurological disease after Alzheimer’s disease, and a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every nine minutes. Parkinson’s disease is estimated to affect 1% of the population over the age of 60, increasing to 5% by the age of 85. Since the disease usually doesn’t show recognizable symptoms until around 80% of the brain is damaged, only around 5% of people are diagnosed with early onset by the age of 60.
People with a close family member who have Parkinson’s disease have a slightly increased risk (2-5%) of developing the disease. About 15 to 25% of people with Parkinson’s disease have a known relative with the disease.
With such a large impact, it’s understandable that people with the disease are coming together. This is what happened recently with the formation of Parkinson’s Support Group, which was founded locally by Tillman Blakely and Mike McKinney. The organization held its first meeting on December 6 and the turnout was even higher than expected.
âWe had about 50 people,â Blakely said. âIt was really great and I think it underscores the need for a Parkinson’s support group within the medical community. It is for people with Parkinson’s disease and their family members, especially their caregivers.
Support group co-founder Mike McKinney agrees.
âGiven the number of participants at our first meeting and the very moving testimony we heard, there is a critical need for a Parkinson’s voice in Glynn County,â he said.
âA voice that our community leaders and our local hospital administration can hear and resolve the issues of Parkinson’s disease to provide a comprehensive medical care and support plan, physiotherapy and speech-language pathology support, emotional support and very supportive care. important caregivers. “
The group is currently preparing to put its Facebook page online. Blakely is also looking forward to the next meeting. It will be held at 11 a.m., January 6, in the Chapel of the First St. Simons United Church, 624 Ocean Boulevard, St. Simons Island. There will be several speakers, including a psychologist with Parkinson’s disease, a representative from the Veterans Office and others.