LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Sunday, April 15, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) held its fourth annual Parkinson's Forum, with nearly 200 people in attendance.
April is Parkinson's Awareness Month. This year, the forum offered new research updates for those living with the disease and a live boxing demonstration that got the crowd out of their seats and throwing a few punches.
"I was diagnosed when I was 29, but symptoms started when I was about 26 years old,” said Jeremy Poe, who drove in from out of town to attend the event.
UAMS Neurosurgeon Erika Petersen estimates 8 to 10,000 people in Arkansas are living with Parkinson's Disease.
“A lot of those people don't even know they have the disease. And if they do think something is wrong, they aren't sure what to do about it,” she said.
The UAMS Parkinson's Forum was created to help build community awareness and establish a network of support for patients.
“We all have moments where we just want to do something and can't pull it off, but imagine your whole day is like that. To help people optimize and be better at controlling the way their body functions, it is so empowering,” added Petersen.
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder characterized by tremors or shaking in the hands, difficulty walking, shuffling, and/or stiffness. It can take years before a person even realizes that their body isn't working the way it needs to.
Organizers think open conversations like these are critical in helping to establish well-educated patients and a supportive community.
“The first thing to do is talk to a doctor about it,” said Petersen.
Today’s program provided expert opinion from the University's Movement Disorders Clinic, and information about Rock Steady Boxing, a non-contact technique designed specifically for Parkinson’s patients.
“It's just a little more exciting to tell your loved ones you're going to boxing class instead of physical therapy,” said Living Defense Martial Arts Instructor Danny Dring.
He provided a presentation complete with video and physical demonstration for attendees. Dring thinks boxing can help ease disease symptoms and improve quality of life.
"I need to do it to rejuvenate myself. I exercised up until the age of 40 and just couldn't do it anymore. But the boxing, I think I can do,” Poe said.
A fundraiser, Parkinson's Moving Day, is Saturday, April 21st at War Memorial Stadium.
To attend the fundraiser or register for the walk, visit their website.