When Ed Huitema first noticed his hands shaking he thought over 40 years of hard work as a gas welder were the cause.
The 86-year-old Warfield resident had been a capable and healthy man his whole life, able to handle anything that came his way as he raised his family in the village west of Trail.
But he wasn’t prepared for what doctors told him 10 months ago when he was initially diagnosed with what is known as Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder caused by a loss of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is necessary as it is essential to control the way messages travel from one nerve cell to another.
It affects parts of the brain controlling voluntary movement such as walking, writing, throwing a ball or buttoning a shirt.
It is also essential for involuntary movements including control of blood pressure and bowel function. Loss of dopamine can control moods and thoughts.
For Ed, his shaking hands were his first indication something was not right. After he was diagnosed and had done some reading, he figured he had been dealing with the disease for at least three years.
“It kind of hit me between the eyes,” he said. “I didn’t really know what Parkinson’s was all about. But once I found out, it started getting worse.”
Confusion and frustration reigned for Ed and his wife, Ann, as the symptoms of the disease escalated.
He found it difficult to eat and had trouble using utensils to bring the food to his mouth. Reading proved to be a challenge as it was difficult to turn the pages with the loss of arm strength.
“Your brain is telling your body to do something and it is not doing it,” he said. “You are kind of embarrassed because you think people are noticing how you are struggling to eat.”
Although Ed had been diagnosed less than one year ago, the symptoms of the disease had been there for years: difficulty signing his name; no endurance; he shuffled when he walked; and sometimes he would freeze and he would tremble.
But Ed decided not to take medication and instead saw Dr. Warren Fisher in Nelson and is now under a regime of acupuncture. Since then, the trembling has decreased considerably.
“It’s an uphill battle. You have your good days and your bad days,” he said. “It’s a crazy disease and everybody is different.”
Ed said attending the Trail/Castlegar Parkinson Support Group was very helpful to share challenges and current information on Parkinson’s.
The Trail/Castlegar Parkinson’s support group meets every third Tuesday of the month in the Colander, Trail at 11:30 a.m. For further information contact Renice Townsend at 250-367-7437.
The Parkinson Society of British Columbia can also be contacted at 604-662-3240 or 1-800-668-3330.
“I am struggling with Parkinson’s and each day is an acceptance that Parkinson’s is my reality,” he said.