Pat Smith proudly wears a “Shakin’ not Stirred” T-shirt, which is her motto for living life with her
Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
Many consider Smith a role model and poster gal for living with the disease, though she does not see
herself that way.
Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects movement, often including
tremors or shakes. It can manifest itself in a wide variety of ways, and Smith said her study of the
disease has made her realize many people can have Parkinson’s for up to 10 or even 20 years without
realizing it or being diagnosed. Though some consider it a disease of the elderly, she knows it can
inflict its power on people of any age. Actor Michael J. Fox is a prime example of a younger person with
“When I was first diagnosed (roughly 3½ years ago), my shoulders were all hunched over, I couldn’t use my
left arm and I couldn’t go up and down stairs,” Smith recalled. “It just pulled my shoulder neck muscles
By being proactive, she says she is actually healthier now than she was before the diagnosis. She credits
not only her medication, but more importantly her regular exercise regimen. Because of her exercising,
she said, she is only on one medication, whereas many Parkinson’s patients take many more pills.
“Just look at what this exercise has done for me,” she said with pride following a Delay the Disease
exercise class at the Bowling Green Senior Center.
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and Smith urges everyone to learn more aware and to investigate the
disease, especially if they suspect they may have one or more of the symptoms.
In addition to participating in the Delay the Disease class, Smith regularly attends a support group
meeting held at Kingston in Perrysburg.
“Some call me the Parkinson’s guru, but I just get all the knowledge I can and I also share that
knowledge with others,” Smith said. “I have learned so much from so many other people.”
Smith also collects information from the Parkinson’s Foundation and shares it with anyone who needs it.
“I get boxes and boxes of information,” she said.
She also makes bookmarks and necklaces to share with people who may be struggling with the disease or any
other malady. She has them blessed at her church, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Rochester. She said
her pastor, Bruce Bair, has her bring them to a worship service where they are blessed not only by him,
but by the entire congregation.
Smith shared that beyond the tremors, there are a number of signs of Parkinson’s including loss of the
sense of smell, using a softer voice, walking more slowly and shuffling, and poor balance, to name a
“You lose 80 percent of your dopamine before you know you have the disease,” she said.
She is a strong advocate for the Delay the Disease program, as she has personally seen people who used a
wheelchair now able to walk on their own again.
Smith’s husband, Skip, is a strong supporter for her, and he agreed with his wife about the importance
and benefits of exercise.
“I exercise at least an hour every day — not just in the class.” Smith said. She exercises her facial
muscles, her voice as well as any other part of her body that could be affected by the disease. She
averages a minimum of nine or 10 hours every week.
She also regularly does crafts and other projects to exercise her brain. She does things like quickly
reciting the alphabet backward.
“You have to do the exercises at home, too. My balance is now better than the average person. I train my
body to do the things it should do.”
Because Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, it is important to get on it as early as possible.
Both she and her husband said it is important to do the exercises “big.”
She explained because you lose the functions gradually, you think you are doing something big or speaking
loudly when you really aren’t.
Chris Stearns, a registered nurse with Wood Haven Health Care, has been trained and certified with the
Delay the Disease program and assists at the senior center.
“You develop these habits gradually — like the shuffling — and so you need to break those habits. You
have to retrain your brain to do what it’s supposed to do,” Stearns said.
“It’s hard to start with for some people, but it does get easier as they go,” said Danielle Brogley, who
coordinates the Delay the Disease program at the senior center.
Tammy Starr serves as the leader of the classes, which are not exclusively for Parkinson’s patients;
there are also people in the class with multiple sclerosis as well as other movement issues.
Brogley said anyone curious about the program is welcome to attend the first time for free.
Stearns noted that the classes offered are very affordable. She said the $30 rate for the 12-week session
here would cost “hundreds” in many other areas.
Stearns will be leading a new Delay the Disease class in May at Wood Haven on Gypsy Lane Road. She is
still ironing out details, but the plan is similar to the current program at the senior center, with it
being held on Thursdays.
Smith also stresses the importance of having a doctor that is specifically trained in Parkinson’s.
“Most doctors don’t know that much about Parkinson’s. Even the neurologists. You have to get a
Parkinson’s doctor,” Smith said.
Delay the Disease
• Wood County Committee on Aging, 305 N. Main. 419-353-5661; 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays, $30 for 12-week class
• Wood Haven Health Care, 1965 E. Gypsy Lane Road, Chris Stearns, 419-315-8935, projected start in May,
1:30 p.m. Thursdays, $30 for 12-week class
• Kingston Rehabilitation of Perrysburg, 345 E. Boundary, 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, $50 for
bi-weekly classes eight weeks.
• Kingston Rehabilitation of Perrysburg, 345 E. Boundary, 419-873-6100, 7-8:30 p.m. second Wednesday of