When Parkinson’s disease hit home for Deanna Arrington, she got to work.
Mrs. Arrington, the late wife of Gary Arrington, pastor at Garner Missionary Baptist Church, was diagnosed in 2002 with the disease.
“She was blessed that hers was slow to progress,” Arrington said. “She fought stiffness, tremors and pain for the past 14 years.”
She died last month of ovarian cancer, but spent her final years not only fighting the illness, but working to make the future better for others with Parkinson’s disease by forming the local group Coalition for the Cure of Parkinson’s Disease.
The organization’s first Parkinson’s Disease Awareness and Fundraising Event last year raised $8,000 for research at the University of Kentucky.
“Deanna spent endless hours contacting friends and organizing the different activities of the fundraiser. She was an encourager to all of those who took part and especially to the board of directors,” Arrington said. “It was Deanna’s desire to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. CCPD is her way of creating hope for a cure. ... She knew she would never benefit from a cure, but desired others would someday be freed of the illness.”
The second annual event, set for 10 a.m. to noon April 12 at the Kyova Mall, is expected to be a great success, too.
“We were quite pleased to raise $8,000 the first year,” Arrington said. “I believe we will see an increase this year. There is a greater awareness and we have tried to learn from our experiences.”
Parkinson’s, a progressive, degenerative disease, affects about 1 million Americans, according to statistics from UK. It causes the death of nerves deep in the brain, which leads to motor and nonmotor symptoms; there is no known cure. Symptoms include tremors, rigidity, slow movement and unstable posture.
Physicians at UK are working on a pilot program in which Parkinson’s patients who have deep-brain stimulation surgery — in which a device like a pacemaker regulates nerve cues in the brain — also are having nerve tissue taken from near their ankles grafted into their brain. The tissues are the kind that can regenerate.
The hope is the implanted nerve tissue will release chemicals that will help the brain heal itself by stimulating regeneration in the parts of the brain damaged by Parkinson’s.
Dr. Craig van Horne, UK assistant professor of neurosurgery and principal investigator of Parkinson’s research at UK, said the donation is very important to his team.
“We’re trying to either halt the progression of the symptoms or slow the progression of the symptoms over time,” van Horne said. “At this point, nothing does that. But right now, we’ve implanted six patients and we’re starting to see positive results.”
He said at nine months into the first phase of the study, the results can be considered positive. Money raised by the Ashland group will help fund the second phase of the study.
“Based on these positive results, we’re going to expand to a second study based on the first one,” he said. “We’re going to use some of that $8,000 to look into what the effects of using that graft are.” He said the study will aim to make sure the procedure is safe and feasible, and so far, that seems to be the case.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate that kind of support,” he said. “In this era of money being tight everywhere, every bit helps. A committee gets together to decide where the donations go, and when a group says specifically their money is going to us, that’s just incredible.”
Deep-brain stimulation surgery has been used for more than 10 years to help Parkinson’s patients, alleviating some of the problems, but not halting the progress.
UK is the first medical center in the United States to conduct the clinical trial.
Boyd County resident Stacy Keelin, a CCPD volunteer, said she believes her work with the organization’s fundraising event is paying off.
“We were thrilled with last year’s results and pleased to present the University of Kentucky with a donation of $8,000 for Parkinson’s research,” Keelin said. Her job at the event is to set up the event’s Community Chapel where spiritual support is offered to any visitor.
“Our board and volunteers have committed their best efforts towards another successful event with our goals being twofold — funding Parkinson’s research and founding a local support group for those in need.”
Keelin, who got involved with CCPD because of her friendship with Mrs. Arrington, said the event will begin with a breakfast for those with Parkinson’s, their families and caregivers from 9 to 10 a.m. Guest speaker will be Janet Greene, patient outreach and education director for UK HealthCare Neurological Sciences.
At 9 a.m., registration for the 10 a.m. walk will begin. Saxophonist Jeff Carter will provide entertainment, vendors will be set up and representatives from local hospitals will offer medical screenings.
Amber’s Cloggers will have two performances during the event. Free inflatables will be available for children during the entire event and gospel music is scheduled from 11 a.m. to noon.
The event also offers the opportunity to purchase a spot on the Living Tree of Hope, which honors those with Parkinson’s disease.
Meanwhile, Gary Arrington continues to do what he can to help Parkinson’s patients and to further research of the disease.
“I am making contacts with individuals in an effort to form a support group for those with Parkinson’s and their families,” he said. “I plan to continue on with the work of CCPD. I want to help those affected by the illness. Deanna was passionate about this work, and I certainly want to continue with her dream.”
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
When Parkinson’s disease hit home for Deanna Arrington, she got to work.
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