Difficult disease, yet hope stressed at RCF

Parkinson’s Disease is the “fastest growing neurological disease in the world,” PJ Parkinson’s support group executive director/founder Isabell Senft-Daniel told Rotary Club of Farragut members during their meeting in Fox Den Country Club Wednesday, Sept. 29.

“Approximately 1 million in the U.S. of America have Parkinson’s disease. That’s the official number, but the true number is much higher,” she said, noting there is no real test for the disease and its initial symptoms are very similar to other ailments.

“It’s really hard to diagnose Parkinson’s disease,” Senft-Daniel added.

Parkinson’s never really got a lot of attention, but in the last couple of years, there has been more money put forth toward research, she said.

“We call this a snowflake disease because every case and every person who has it is different,” Senft-Daniel added.

“There’s still no cure for it.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disease that impacts people’s mobility. For that reason, she pointed out people diagnosed with it need to “keep moving.”

Arising out of research has been a key discovery: “there is a genetic component to the disease, but we believe (the cause) is environmental, from the use of chemicals, such as herbicides,” Senft-Daniel said.

However, Parkinson’s disease is not a death sentence. Many patients, such as RCF member Phill Bradbury, live long and productive lives.

“People don’t die from Parkinson’s; they die with it,” she added.

“(Bradburry) is cared for at his home by wife, Judith, and the few caregivers they can find to help support them,” Tom King, RCF publicity chairman, stated in the club’s Oct. 3 newsletter.

”Parkinson’s will not be the cause of death for those with this disease,” Senft-Daniel said. “They will die because of conditions that happen because of Parkinson’s, like pneumonia, other infections, injuries from bad falls and even blood clots.”

Senft-Daniel started the organization, which serves 300 people and their families in Knox and five surrounding counties — Blount, Loudon, Anderson, Jefferson and Sevier — in 2014.

She said the support group was named after Peg Trotten, one of her first patients in the United States.

“Peg asked if I would like to help organize a support group,” Senft-Daniel recalled. “She passed away a couple of weeks before the first meeting.”

In that first support group meeting, she recalled there were more than 40 people who attended, while she expected only three or four to attend.

For more information about Parkinson’s or to offer support, call 865-621-7666 or e-mail to info@pjparkinsons.org