Health Plus-Young Onset Parkinson's Disease - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Health Plus-Young Onset Parkinson's Disease

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Ever since Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, more Americans have come to understand how life-changing it can be-especially when it strikes younger patients.

In Health Plus, the story of an eastern Iowa woman who recently found out that tremor in her hand was more serious than first thought.

Five years ago Terry Hertges thought the tremor in her hand was no big deal.

Her mom and uncle both have it, afterall, and doctors didn't say it was a concern.

But eventually it got worse.

"We were at friends the night of the tornado in Parkersburg playing video games. You move the joystick and tap, tap, tap. I couldn't tap," recalled Hertges.

The next day the now 52-year-old couldn't wave, either.

An M.R.I. confirmed the shocking news: she has young onset Parkinson's disease.

"I cried. Am I gonna be like Michael j. Fox?" she said.

The better news, doctors say, is that Parkinson's progresses slowly in younger patients.

"If a patient is young and he is medically fit otherwise, no medical problems, the progression is not so bad," said Dr. Sangeeta Goel of Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo.  "It's not as fast and they could have a good 10 or 20 years before they're seeing bad progress."

Dr. Goel says, as with Terry, tremors are a common sign of the disease.

"Usually when they start having tremors and some clumsiness, rigidity, slowness, those are the symptoms of Parkinson's," said Dr. Goel.

Medication is likely causing Terry, who works in Covenant's Sleep Center, to be more forgetful, but the goal is to better control her tremors.

As for coping with her diagnosis, she has ups and downs.

"The first book I read I flipped to the back and it was picking out your nursing home. So I closed it and I never read another book," said Hertges.

But support has come from strangers, really.

"I went to the website and got advice from people who have it. That's helped me more than anything," said Hertges.

Doctors hope new research results in some permanent relief for her.

Terry is starting a support group for young onset Parkinson's patients.

The first meeting is next Thursday, April 9th at 6:30 pm in Waterloo's Kimball Ridge Center.

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