Darrel "Tucker" Wavra

Body tremor, slow movement, low speech volume… these are common symptoms of an individual with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). A motor disease, it leads to gradual decline over time due to the death of nerve and brain cells. Common symptoms include tremor (shaking) of the hands, legs, face and jaw, rigid (stiff) arms or trunk, slow movements, impaired balance and coordination.

According to The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation as many as one million Americans have Parkinson’s Disease. Darrel “Tucker” Wavra of Valley City, ND is one of the many individuals who is currently living with PD. Tucker and his wife, Marion “Leah,” share the story of their journey.

In 2010, Leah noticed her husband’s walk seemed a little off. “We went to our doctor first, and they couldn’t see it. We went back and forth for quite a while, and finally they said we could go to a Parkinson’s doctor in Fargo. In 2013, she [the doctor] diagnosed him with Parkinsonism,” says Leah. Parkinsonism is the generic term used to describe neurological issues that cause slow movements and rigidity.

“I didn’t feel very good about it,” states Tucker in response to his diagnosis. “I remember what he looked like, just quiet and sitting there…denial,” Leah adds.

While the cause of PD is unclear, there are a variety of treatments to help with symptoms including: medicine, deep brain stimulation, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

In August of 2015, their doctor recommended that Tucker also begin physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). In a PT treatment, patients may work on increasing their strength, endurance and balance, all of which can be negatively affected by PD. An OT session may include providing strategies and equipment that may be needed to complete daily tasks, such as dressing, cooking or hobbies that have become difficult due to PD.

Tucker completed both PT and OT for four days a week for four week. “I don’t know where we would be if we hadn’t done that,” Leach shares. “I’ve worked hard,” smiles Tucker, who continues to complete daily speech and physical therapy exercise. Along with therapy and medical intervention, Tucker and Leah attend a support group in Fargo. “It gives me support, just talking to other people and listening to others,” Leah States

Tucker’s treatment plan, led him to speech therapy (ST) at Jamestown Regional Medical Center “The goals for treatment are to increase loudness of the voice, as well as, strategies and exercises to improve swallowing and prevent aspiration,” says Becca Gussiaas, JRMC Speech-Language Pathologist.

They have found their experience at JRMC to be overwhelmingly positive. “We didn’t know what to do or where to go; it was through our doctor that we came to JRMC. They’re so friendly here, it’s welcoming and relaxed.”