It was a Thursday evening in March 2007. I was a partner in an international law firm, and with more than 24 years of practice under my belt, I had not taken a single sick day.
I was a project finance lawyer, which meant I represented the developer of electric generation facilities in the financing of renewable energy facilities such as solar power plants and wind farms. In fact, my client was and still is the largest producer of energy from wind and solar resources in the world.
I had conditioned myself to thrive on the adrenaline rush of 80-hour work weeks and endless deals spanning the United States, South America and Europe.
That Thursday evening, my client called and asked if I could be in Santa Barbara, California by noon the following day. I live in Miami, Florida. “You will be home by Tuesday,“ the client assured me.
So I set off for California with enough clothes for a short three-day trip…
Six weeks later, I returned home having closed one of the most complicated, contentious and stressful transactions of my career. By the time I finally made it back to Miami, via Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and New York City, I realized that I had lost the ability to write my name and typing was all but impossible.
I went to my general practitioner and he prescribed an anti-inflammatory. When that didn’t work, he sent me to an orthopedic doctor. The bone doctor said, “I think it’s neurological,” and he sent me to the neurologist. When the neurologist asked, “What can I do for you today?“ I laughed and I said, “I think I have that secretaries disease—carpal tunnel syndrome.” He laughed and said, “You have Parkinson’s disease.” He put some Azilect in my hand and said, “Take this and if it works, then we’ll know that I am right.”
Little did I know that that was to be the beginning of this adventure that I now know as Parkinson’s disease.
I had heard about Parkinson’s disease, but no one in my family had it. In fact, I didn’t know anyone who had Parkinson’s disease. Thankfully, I didn’t have the crushing depression or debilitating anger that many people experience upon being diagnosed. “Boys are stupid,” says my wife. But I acknowledge those reactions are real and must be addressed early on in the diagnosis.
That’s where a referral to the Parkinson’s Foundation can be life-changing. Through its initiative for newly diagnosed patients, the Foundation fills the void of critical information most patients lack regarding their recent diagnosis. Oftentimes, as in my case, the diagnosing physician is too busy or lacks the courtesy to provide a sufficient explanation on how to live a quality life with Parkinson’s disease.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, I was introduced to the Foundation (then the National Parkinson’s Foundation), and my wife and I were invited to participate in a week-long retreat for newly diagnosed patients and their care partners. It was held at a very “zen“ retreat center in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts called Kripalu. Now Kripalu is a well-known retreat center focusing on yoga and holistic living. There, my wife and I became yoga fanatics. It was that introduction by the Foundation to the power of exercise in the fight against Parkinson’s that forever changed the trajectory of the disease for me. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Since my first encounter, I have been continuously engaged with the Foundation. I have participated in virtually every Moving Day in Miami since the first one, and I served as the Chairman of the Miami Moving Day Committee for several years. I’ve recruited volunteers and spoken on behalf of the Foundation at many events. Together with Scott, we served as co-chairs of the first and second National Volunteer Leadership Summit of the Parkinson’s Foundation. I also currently serve on the national board of directors of the Parkinson’s Foundation, and I’m co-chair of the Development Committee.
The people of the Parkinson’s Foundation share a passion and commitment for making life better for people living with Parkinson’s that is unrivaled. Without a doubt they are changing lives. I’m here to tell you, they’ve certainly changed mine.