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DailyCamera: Simulation on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall Shows Effects of Parkinson’s Disease

Participants experience daily battles of Parkinson’s sufferers

By Kylee Perez For the Camera

When Paul Brown is walking, he sometimes feels as if one of his legs is suddenly glued to the ground. Rocking back and forth might gets his leg moving again, but sometimes only sheer concentration will get him going.

Sudden difficulty moving a limb, known as “freezing,” is a common symptom for people, like Brown, who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

To help people understand the daily battles of the more than 17,000 Parkinson’s sufferers in the Rocky Mountain region, the Parkinson Association of the Rockies set up simulations Wednesday on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall.

Participants walked across a partially filled air mattress with three-pound weights on their ankles, navigated a Velcro carpet in Velcro boots, and wrote with a vibrating pen.

“To try it out and then get out is easy,” said Christopher Sarson, a Boulder mediator who tried the simulation on his lunch break. “But to live with it day after day after day must be hard.”

The goal of the simulation is to bring awareness about Parkinson’s to the public and to show those diagnosed that help is available, said Rick Schwartz, the association’s board president.

The association offers support groups for patients and family members, equipment loans, educational materials and exercise classes. New research suggests that exercise can help slow the symptoms of Parkinson’s, which currently has no cure.

“I’m convinced I’d be in a wheelchair if I hadn’t exercised all those years,” said Schwartz, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago.

Exercise helps patients feel stronger, have more muscle control and stretch tight muscles, a common symptom of Parkinson’s, said Brown, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six years ago.

Brown became involved with the Parkinson Association of the Rockies shortly after being diagnosed. He said he found that association members deal with the disease with “patience, confidence and a sense of hope.”

The association — which is hosting its eighth annual Shake, Rattle and Stroll walk Sunday in Denver — provides free yoga classes for its members and plans to start tango classes.

“We have a saying in Parkinson’s,” said Gary Sobol, a Parkinson’s sufferer and association member. “Keep moving.”

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