She’s a very caring person and she laughs at my jokes.

David Dameron, Patient

In May 2009, David Dameron noticed a tremor in his right arm. At first, he assumed it was from stress. He knew something was wrong when the tremors got worse. Dameron was shocked when a doctor revealed his diagnosis of stage one Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in one hand and eventually causing slowing or freezing of body movement.

Dameron’s mother also had Parkinson’s disease. After watching her struggle, he grew to develop a “proactive and holistic” approach to his own healthcare.

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, many different treatments and medicines are available to manage its symptoms. Dameron sought help from the Bronson Neuroscience Center and Parkinson Treatment Team which consists of neurologists, physician assistants and various therapists.

The Parkinson Treatment Team offers an innovative and comprehensive approach for patients. Bronson’s neurologists and rehabilitation therapists specialize in understanding all aspects of Parkinson’s disease. They work together to design specific treatment plans for each individual patient.

Dameron’s team worked with him to balance a conventional medical approach with the alternative treatments he preferred. “My focus has always been on herbal supplements, but I’d be up a creek without the drug Sinemet,” he says. “If you have this disease, you‘re pretty much willing to try anything. It’s nice to have Bronson there. It fills in a piece I haven’t been able to fill.”

Dameron’s treatment also includes participation in the Kalamazoo Area Parkinson’s Support Group. Bronson facilitates the group in order to encourage patients and caregivers to share experiences and information and provide emotional support. Their philosophy is rooted in the values of dignity and respect, participation and collaboration, and information sharing. Dameron was relieved to find these values personified in Karen Freshwater, PA-C. Freshwater leads the support group and specializes in Parkinson’s treatment and works closely with Dameron’s neurologist, Kelly Ybema, MD.

Dameron appreciated the opportunity to exchange resources and tools with other Parkinson’s patients and hear their stories. “I like to know what the evolution of the disease was like for them and what they encountered –the anecdotal things that really helped them.”  Services like the support group demonstrate Bronson’s commitment to patient and family centered care.

“She’s a very caring person and she laughs at my jokes,” Dameron says of Freshwater. But more importantly, “she was the first person in my entire process who would listen to the alternative things I was doing. Not that she always agreed, but she would listen and discuss with me about what was going on inside my head and my body, as opposed to just my outside symptoms.”

Freshwater admires Dameron for his hard work and proactive approach. “He eagerly attended the Vicksburg PT/OT and Speech therapy treatment program to learn more about how the disease is affecting him,” she said. “He does whatever he can to minimize the symptoms as much as possible.” The rehabilitation exercises he learned from the therapists have already helped him improve his dexterity and strength.

Dameron still has on days and off days, but he refuses to be a victim. He appreciates having people like Freshwater who will talk through his ideas and suggestions, and Freshwater appreciates being part of a strong team of professionals who can give Dameron the best care possible. She says, “It’s provided tremendous benefits not only for Dameron, but all the others who come to us for treatment.”