Laura Osburn is a retired clinical social worker and administrator with a strong family network. She was diagnosed in 2014 at the age of 71. Her first symptom was a change in her handwriting. She says: “My signature had always been big and sloppy; I noticed that it was suddenly very small and precise.”
Laura’s first reaction to her diagnosis was relief: for two years her general neurologist had insisted that she did not have PD. Friends, including one with PD, got her connected to OHSU, where she was correctly diagnosed. Since that time she has also experienced some facial masking and hypotension on standing up suddenly, along with posture, balance and gait problems, hoarsevoice and fatigue.
Laura has found the following to be helpful:
· Drugs. Laura's symptoms all respond well to levodopa, although she has to take anti-nausea medication with it. In addition, levodopa helps her feel more present.
· Exercise. The Dance for PD program really helps, and she also attends a weekly yoga class. She has also done physical therapy for balance issues.
· Attitude. She tries keep a positive attitude, and also says “Sometimes denial is my friend.”
· Support from family and friends.
Having PD has taught Laura the value of patience and adaptability.
To people who are newly diagnosed, Laura says: “Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, stay involved with life; don’t isolate yourself. Exercise is key to slowing progression. Remember that no one dies from PD.”
To people who don't have PD Laura says: “We may look like we’re not ‘in there’ but we are aware and interested in life.”