Resolution needed for patients

By Perry Conrad

On June 10 of 2000, I was a 41-year-old triage nurse at Altoona Hospital when I felt my first Parkinson’s tremor.

Now, nearly 17 years later, I’m happy to tell you that I am still living the dream right here in central Pennsylvania.

The road hasn’t always been smooth. But thanks to my movement disorder specialist, many medications, my friend (and pride of Blair County) Dr. Donald Whiting, who performed brain surgery on me 10 years ago despite the mainstream saying I was too young for a deep brain stimulator, and loving support from the greatest friends and family ever, my road does continue.

The crazy thing is that despite being blessed with all of those wonderful things, it

wasn’t enough to stay ahead of Parkinson’s. I’m not complaining, but this time last year I would fall down so often that I had to crawl if I wanted to go from room to room in my own house.

And then last March I found out about a clinic that opened in the old Easter Seals building on Valley View Boulevard. This clinic advertised specialized therapy for adults with neurologic conditions.

I was very skeptical at first because I had worked in the medical field for years, and this talk of restructuring brain pathways and delaying the progression of disease with focused exercise and positive attitude just seemed like foolishness to me. But I was desperate and willing to try anything.

Well, because of the therapy received from the staff at the adult-neuro clinic, I soon had days when I felt better than I did 20 years ago. Actually, I felt so good that I spent the summer visiting support groups in cities throughout western Pa. to tell other patients and their families that yes, there is hope.

And last fall, I even followed former Pirate great Dave Parker and a nationally recognized research doctor at a conference in Pittsburgh to speak about what we have accomplished right here in Altoona.

Then in December the dozens of neurologic patients who attended the adult clinic as well as the families of the many special needs children who also received therapy in that same building learned that Tyrone Hospital and ProCare Therapy and Fitness had dissolved their partnership, forcing a change for us all.

For the patients, the news wasn’t too bad at first because the services would be offered at new locations.

The adult program moved to the ProCare clinic in Pinecroft, and all of our therapists were staying with us. But we soon found out that a very important piece of equipment that every one of the adult patients used at every therapy session was being retained in the building on Valley View by the Tyrone Hospital board.

The Giger MD therapeutic bike (the Giger as we call it) is a breakthrough piece of equipment that gives the user biofeedback and requires specialized training to use. It was introduced to the Altoona community by ProCare’s adult neuro program director, Stacy DuBois, and was purchased for her patients to use with publicly donated funds.

Although the patients have only been without the Giger for six weeks, we already notice a decline in our mobility.

I, for instance, am back to needing a walker nearly 100 percent of the day.

We (the patients) are extremely grateful for the kindness we have received from these two fine health care organizations and pray for a quick and peaceful resolution to their corporate issues. Our hope for a better tomorrow relies on their best health today.

I am writing here to plead with the Tyrone Hospital board to please allow the adult neuro patients to have access to the Giger bike during this transition. We realize there are probable legalities surrounding the use of gifted equipment.

However, if the patients have any voice in this matter, we feel that the intent or spirit of this gift was for the well-being of patients in this community and we the patients would like the adult neuro program staff who have been trained to use it to manage the Giger and our therapy.

Perry Conrad is a registered nurse who resides in Tyrone.