Parkinson's Disease Patients Attend First Of Its Kind Retreat

Researchers estimate about one million North Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. It's a disorder where part of the brain degenerates and that leads to symptoms like slow movement, tremors and muscle stiffness.

This weekend the first ever nationally sponsored retreat for Parkinson's patients took place right here on the coast. Southern Miss professor Kenneth Stuck came up with idea for the retreat. He says having Parkinson's Disease doesn't keep him from enjoying an active lifestyle.

"One of my doctor's recommendations to me was not to retire to keep active and I think we all need to be productive even if we're shaking a little bit," Stuck said.

Patients and their families got the opportunity to learn about the medications available to them, get an update on the latest research on Parkinson's, and ask questions of the experts. Doctors and patients say Parkinson's is a disease that doesn't just affect a person physically.

"Studies show that Parkinson's Disease and depression go hand in hand at least 60 percent of the time, and it's always good to have friends that are in the same boat that you're in and to have this comradery and hope for the future," Dr. Anthony Nichols said.

Organizers say a lot of young Parkinson's patients are a little apprehensive about getting out in public and interacting with others. Organizers hoped the retreat would provide an environment where there would be a lot of comradery and patients interact and have a good time.

Organizers were able to make the retreat free to all the participants, thanks to various grants and donations. They say whether they have a retreat next year will depend on funding.

By Danielle Thomas