Tom and Carol Reid of Plum began their journey to help people with Parkinson's disease 15 years ago.
Mr. Reid was an in-house attorney for Koppers Co. Inc. in Pittsburgh, when he began to have symptoms of Parkinson's, such as drooling and watering eyes.
His wife said family members noticed he had developed a masklike, expressionless face, another symptom of Parkinson's. He also fell off a ladder, and he broke a rib after he couldn't stop while running downhill.
"We knew something was wrong," Mrs. Reid said.
Mr. Reid went to his family doctor soon after the symptoms began, but it took two years to get a diagnosis.
When Mr. Reid retired, the couple moved to their former vacation home in Ligonier, where they became active in the Westmoreland County Parkinson Support Group in Greensburg and helped to start a support group at Forbes Regional Hospital.
Now, the Reids will be honored for their volunteer work to help those with Parkinson's. They will receive the Local Hero Award at a symposium on Parkinson's disease Sept. 15 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
The Reids have helped to raise awareness of the National Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania, volunteer for medical research and speak to community organizations about their experiences with Parkinson's, according to the Davis Phinney Foundation, sponsor of the symposium.
They also have helped to organize a three-day retreat every year for the past six years at Antiochian Village near Ligonier for people with Parkinson's and their caregivers.
Mr. Reid, 75, obtained benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs because he was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam and is currently helping another Parkinson's patient navigate the maze of VA requirements to obtain benefits.
Mr. Reid used to volunteer 30 hours per week for the Service Corps of Retired Executives, or SCORE, which helps people start businesses and resolve business problems. Now he no longer can work that many hours a week, he said.
In people who have Parkinson's disease, cells in the brain that create the neurotransmitter called dopamine die off. Dopamine helps to transmit messages between brain cells that control movement.
Common symptoms of Parkinson's include a shuffling gait, a tremor when muscles are at rest, muscle rigidity, slowness of movement and instability. Parkinson's patients also have two to six times the risk of suffering dementia as the general population, and dementia commonly occurs in the advanced stages of the disease.
The symposium, called The Victory Summit, will feature local and national medical experts who will speak about research advances, treatment options and practical ways to live well with Parkinson's.
Donald Whiting, vice chairman of Allegheny General Hospital's Department of Neurological Surgery, said the summit is an opportunity to address all of the issues that affect patients with Parkinson's and their families. Panel discussions will address strategies for building and maintaining relationships, Parkinson's disease and children, and local research programs and clinical trials.
Surgeons, neurologists and therapists will be on hand to answer questions from patients and their families, Dr. Whiting said.
A session will be held on Parkinson's and cognition called "From Clear to Partly Cloudy" and another session will discuss the importance of exercise in reducing Parkinson's symptoms.
One panel discussion will address deep brain stimulation, the most commonly used surgical treatment for Parkinson's, involving the implantation of a "brain pacemaker" that sends electrical impulses to different parts of the brain.
Deep brain stimulation is used for people with Parkinson's whose symptoms are not well-controlled by medicine.
Dr. Whiting said the implanted device can be adjusted using a computer held over the skin to provide more than 64,000 different combinations of electrical impulses to control symptoms as Parkinson's progresses.
The summit will include movement breaks, such as dancing, stretching and laughter yoga.
The Victory Summit will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Sept. 15. Admission is free, but registration is required. For more information or to register: davisphinneyfoundation.org/victory-summit/upcoming-victory-summits/.
Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.