Saturday, March 31, 2012

Coming Soon to Anchorage, Deep Brain Stimulation Symposium

Medtronic and Swedish Hospital are teaming up to do a blockbuster presentation on Deep Brain Stimulation a surgical procedure that can have significantly beneficial results for people with Parkinson's Disease as well as other brain maladies, including essential tremor and depression. The presentation will be called Diagnosis, Management and Surgical Therapies for Essential Tremor, Parkinson's Disease and Dystonia. Speakers will include

•Jennifer Witt, MD Medical Director, Division of Movement Disorders, Swedish Neuroscience Specialists

•Peter Nora, MD Medical Director, DBS Program, Swedish Neuroscience Specialists

•Peggy O'Neil Shortt, ARNP DBS Program Manager, Swedish Neuroscience Specialists
The event is to take place Thursday, May 17, 2012, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m.
It will be held at
Anchorage Senior Center
1300 East 19th Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska 99501

*Pre-registration is required for this FREE event. Lunch is provided.

To register, please contact Keely Dailey:
425-213-2147 or
Bring your best DBS questions. These people have been at this for some time now, and should have answers.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dr. Alec Glass, PD Specialist to Continue Serving Alaskans in New Solo Practice

Our visiting Parkinson's specialist Dr Alec Glass has parted ways with the neurology practice he was affiliated with here in Anchorage (Alaska Neurology Center). Dr. Glass plans to continue serving Alaska patients, and as of now is setting up his own office here. If you are a patient of Dr. Glass, and wish to continue seeing him here in town, you may reach him by phone at 1- 800-764-7690 . He anticipates being available for patients by mid-late April.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signing Off the Radio Show

(Above, the talented and reflective Fred Newman, sound effects wizard for "A Prairie Home Companion"  made my final edition of "Hometown Anchorage" a pleasure to do)

Today I did my final "Hometown Alaska" broadcast. The show will go on, there are three other hosts to continue the weekly schedule, and I assume they will replace me with a fourth.

This was my decision, and it was a tough one. The folks at KSKA were supportive and dedicated to high-quality journalism. I also got good feedback from  people I ran into around town. So given all that, why am I bailing?

Live radio, when done right looks easy enough. Doing it right however is not simple. You must be aware of the time, the callers on your first screen, the emailers on your second screen, meanwhile absorbing what your guest has to say and preparing your next question. Not to mention cuing and taking cues from the engineer. At the same time you want to avoid silence or "dead air". You also must  avoid live air that involves any of George Carlin's seven words that are forbidden to broadcasters. All this is a mighty load of multitasking for a person whose ability to concentrate on more than one thing, and whose ability to even speak, has been significantly eroded by Parkinson's Disease.

There were off-air considerations as well. Rounding up guests was touch and go. Trying to give the person reasonable time to call back while sweating the possibility of having to put together something on quick turn around as an alternative was a fingernail biting exercise for me.

Was it ever fun? Are you kidding? How great is it to be able to sit and chat with NPR's BJ Liederman or Alaska  novelist Andromeda Romano-Lax? It's stimulating and exciting. Which made the various mistakes and technical errors that much more painful. In the end, I was not improving fast enough to meet my own standard of what I would like to hear on the radio. The staff and the listeners deserve someone who is fired up and grateful for a tremendous opportunity. I am certainly grateful, but more toasted than fired up.

 So is this a victory for Parkinson's Disease? Has it stolen something from me again? You can be the judge of that. But I will call it a draw, or maybe a tactical retreat. A victory for PD would have been to never try, to allow the disease to foreclose options without really testing to see whether they were viable or not. Instead I got  to learn a few new things. One of which is I'm not cut out to host Hometown. I plan to advance on other fronts.

Thanks to Pat Yack, Kristin Spack, Bede Trantina and the other terrific folks at who all did their best to make a broadcaster out of me.  They came pretty close, which, given what they were working with, is commendable. The final show, with the terrific Fred Newman is now posted here. It was nice to go out on a high note. Fred? (TWEWEEEEENNNGGGG!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Studies and PD: If A Parkie Falls in a Forest...

Viartis, that often-gloomy-but-sensible oracle of Parkinson's Disease knowledge on the Web, recently published this takedown of Tai Chi as especially beneficial to people with Parkinson's Disease:

"A clinical trial assessed the effect of Tai Chi on postural control in Parkinson's Disease. Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art and form of exercise. Participants took part in 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. Although the researchers claimed that Tai Chi performed consistently better than other methods, the improvement was only 5% better than resistance training, and 12% better than stretching exercises. The Tai Chi group performed better than the stretching group in all secondary outcomes and outperformed the resistance-training group in stride length and functional reach. Tai Chi lowered the incidence of falls when compared with stretching exercises but not when compared with resistance training.

Out of the previous studies in the medical literature concerning Tai Chi and Parkinson's Disease, four were either non-randomised or uncontrolled clinical trials. Two failed to show any effect. Only one study showed Tai Chi to be superior to conventional exercise for Parkinson's Disease. So the evidence is insufficient to suggest that Tai Chi is effective in Parkinson's Disease."  
So, should we just go back to falling with no hope of improving our balance, but smugly aware that we're at least not wasting our time on mumbo-jumbo? Well just hold on a second partner, there may be more here than meets the eye. "Tai Chi performed better than stretching but not better than resistance training." But what if resistance training also helps us avoid falling?  I haven't been able to find anything specific saying it does  or doesn't. But There has been a flurry of articles on how terrific weight training is for people with PD. Perhaps both improve balance. In which case Tai Chi  might be "better" than resistance training, but certainly not worse. And way better than nothing.

Once again we are left wandering in a forest of studies trying to sort our way through a variety of unknowns and extraneous factors. How well-designed were the studies? How comparable were their sample groups? Scientists, like the rest of us , are human, all too human. Frustrated yet? I am. But as sure as the sun appears to rise in the East, one thing seems to be trending clearly. Exercise is emerging as a powerful coping tool for those that have Parkinson's Disease. Tai Chi, dance, Yoga, walking, weightlifting, bicycling.... surely one of these forms of exercise appeals to you enough to get your commitment.  What if the benefit is marginal? If the margin is where I can make some headway against PD, the margin is where I will do it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Alaska MS Center to sponsor "Disability Facts and Fun Fair"

Hello Friends, The Alaska Multiple Sclerosis Center is hosting a Disability Facts and Fun Fair on Sat. April 28, 2012. The event is at Providence Hospital Cancer Center in Tower U, rooms 2281 and 2285. It will run from 12:00-4:30. I don't know much about the exhibits but we should be able to find out more when we are visited at our regular meeting by Antonia Fiflis-Fowler, the executive director of the Alaska MS Center. That's at 3:30 at the Pioneer Home.  See you there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

March Parkinson's Forecast

Hello friends,
Here is the monthly update: The telehealth Seminar will be broadcast Live  at 1:00 Monday March 12, This thrilling episode is on dance and exercise. The event occurs 
in the Providence oncology wing on Piper St.  Go to the second floor, walk down the lonnnnnnnng hall that stretches South from the cafe and look for room 2401 pretty much at the end of the hall on your
right. Right after that on March 17,  (yes, St. Pats)  We will have our regular meeting. Our guest will be Antonia Fifles-Fowler of the Alaska MS center who will talk about what services and benefits that they offer that might be of interest to those of us with PD. I know I'll be there, hope you can make it.