Torrington Parkinsons Support Group

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Sunday25 September 2022

November 14th, 2012
08:16 AM ET
Parkinson's didn't stop his space walk

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cnn_logoEditor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. As a teenager Rich Clifford dreamed of being an astronaut. After a successful career in the army, his dream of traveling into space came true. Then he was diagnosed with a serious brain disorder - a secret he kept for 15 years.

It had been a little more than four months since completing my second space shuttle mission, STS-59, on the shuttle Endeavour.

I was finishing my annual flight physical at the Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. The words from the flight surgeon were as expected: I was in great condition with nothing of note. Then I asked the doctor to look at my right shoulder because my racketball game was suffering.

He asked if I had pain. I told him I wasn't in pain, but my right arm did not swing naturally when I walked. This comment must have set off some alarm because he observed my walk down the hall and quickly said he would take me downtown to the Texas Medical Center the next day.

I remember saying, “I don’t believe we can see an orthopedic surgeon that quickly.” He merely noted that we were going to a neurologist.

Little did I know that next day would change my life so quickly. The neurologist spent 5 minutes with me before saying that I had Parkinson’s Disease. He added I would have to undergo several separate tests to prove that I didn’t have some other neurological disorder. Parkinson’s Disease is diagnosed by the process of eliminating other possible diseases.

After several tests the diagnosis was confirmed. This was December 1995.

To their credit, the flight surgeons asked me what I wanted to do about flying. I quickly said I wanted to continue with all activities, including standing in line for another space shuttle mission. I kept my condition a secret to all, except my wife and my children. I assumed senior NASA management were told, but no one ever spoke to me about the disease. They protected my privacy.

I continued my normal duties and was subsequently offered my third shuttle mission – STS-76, which included a planned space walk. The mission was highly successful. One year after that mission, I left NASA for a job in the private sector supporting human space flight.

With the exception of my closest friends and family, I kept my condition a secret for almost 15 years. My reason for secrecy was simple: People did not need to know.

Now I'm an advocate for Parkinson’s Disease awareness. Having Parkinson’s Disease is no reason to stop living life to its fullest extent. Yes, as the disease progresses I have had to change the way I do certain activities, but I continue to do them.

I have a keen awareness now of the stress my disease places on my loved ones who provide me encouragement and tender-loving care. The caregivers to a person with Parkinson’s are the people who give so much of their lives to care for a loved one. My wife is my caregiver and I am acutely aware of her sacrifices. Parkinson’s disease affects more than just the patient. The patient needs to understand the caregiver is there to help.

So do not let Parkinson’s Disease control your life. You may do things slower, or you may not be able to do things you once did as easily. It is not the end of the world. Do not give up trying. Post by: Rich Clifford - Special to CNN
Filed under: Human Factor • Parkinson's disease

RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME AND PARKINSON'S DISEASE

by J. Steven Poceta, MD

 

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurologic and sleep-related condition characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. There are certain features that make this condition a unique and specific disorder. First, the hallmark of the condition is the feeling of restlessness, usually in the legs. The restlessness is often accompanied by additional sensations such as tingling or creepycrawly feelings, usually located in the legs. The exact location in the legs is usually not restricted to the toes or feet, as in peripheral neuropathy, but rather more generally in the legs, often the calves or thighs. A second feature of RLS is the fact that the restlessness is worse when the person is at rest or not moving. This feature makes it hard for people with RLS to sit still in order to read, relax, or do desk work. The third feature of RLS is that symptoms are improved with moving, particularly walking. Unfortunately, the relief lasts only as long as the movement continues, which makes some people "pace the floor" for hours when the condition is severe. Besides walking, sometimes providing other stimuli to the legs is helpful, such as rubbing or massage, or stretching.

 

People with Parkinson's Disease More Likely to Have Leg Restlessness than Restless Legs Syndrome


People with Parkinson's disease may be more likely to have a movement disorder called leg motor restlessness, but not true restless legs syndrome as previous studies have suggested, according to a study published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

 

Restless legs syndrome is a sleep and movement disorder. People with the disorder have the urge to move their legs to stop uncomfortable sensations. The urge occurs when the person is at rest, in the evening, and is temporarily relieved by movement. In leg motor restlessness, people also have the urge to move their legs, but it is either not worse when they are at rest or during the evening or it does not go away when they move their legs.

 

Some people with Parkinson’s experience restless legs syndrome.1

This information sheet explains what restless legs syndrome is, what the symptoms are, how it is diagnosed and what treatments are available.

 

 

 
 
Irish biotechnology company Prothena announced yesterday that its vaccine in development to slow Parkinson’s disease (PD) progression was safe and tolerable in a Phase I study. 
 
This immunotherapy approach introduces an antibody (called PRX002) against the protein alpha-synuclein, which clumps in the brain cells of people with PD. Researchers believe that clearing out the clumps of alpha-synuclein will protect the brain cells from degradation caused by Parkinson’s.

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Greater Torrington Area Parkinsons Support GroupThe Mission of the Torrington Area Parkinson’s Support Group is to maximize strength, minimize disability and achieve and maintain full potential of people with Parkinson’s and their caretakers.