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Parkinson’s disease gave Wading River woman a new focus

By Alyssa Melillo, www.northshoreoflongisland.com

About seven years ago, Melissa Hahn of Wading River began to feel her knee twitching. Thinking it was stress-induced, she brushed it off and continued her job teaching orchestra at Longwood Junior High School.

But when the experienced violinist could not do a tremolo — a trembling effect while playing the instrument — she knew something was off. She saw several doctors over the course of three years and suspected she had dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, but it wasn’t until she went to a movement disorders specialist in the city that she learned what exactly was wrong.

“Within an hour he told me, ‘You definitely have Parkinson’s,’” Hahn said.

At 32 years old, Hahn was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease, which involves the malfunction and death of neurons in the brain, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. Parkinson’s causes a person to experience tremors throughout the body, slowed movement, limb stiffness and impaired balance. And only about 4 percent of people who have Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50, the foundation reports.

Now 36, Hahn has learned to adjust to her disease. She can still play the violin and conduct the middle school orchestra — she is also the school’s chair of the music, art and family and consumer sciences — but has explored other hobbies. Hahn took up an interest in photography shortly after her diagnosis and has not looked back. She takes several photography trips every year, has a membership with Nature and Wildlife Photographers of Long Island and a photo she took appears in PDF’s 2013 Creativity and Parkinson’s Calendar. Read the rest of the article and see photos here.

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