Michael J. Fox Show Encourages Parkinson's Awareness

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COLUMBIA - The Michael J. Fox Show premiered Thursday on NBC and for Dave and Patsy Dalton it means more than the return of a familiar face to television. Michael J. Fox stars in the show as beloved New York Anchor Mike Henry who decides to go back to work despite having Parkinson's.

Dave and Patsy can relate to Fox's new sitcom. 19 years ago, at the age of 44 Dave started noticing changes. He couldn't tap his feet to the beat of music or stand up straight. He was at a fitting for a suit when he decided it was time to go to the doctor.

"It seemed like a catastrophe," Dave said. "He walks in the door and says I see you have Parkinson's and I had no idea."

"We both sat there and we looked at each other and we said did you hear what I heard and it was just astounding we knew nothing about it," Patsy said. "He was called a young onset, it changed our lives for both of us of course."

Parkinson's typically hits its victims around the age of 50. The disease occurs when there's a lack of a chemical in the brain called dopamine that controls movement and posture. Common symptoms include dizziness, tremors and slowed speech.

"I had been a CPA and I couldn't keep doing that," Dave said.

"He had to take disability when he was 51, and we then both retired earlier," Patsy said. "19 years later, it pretty much calls the shots on a lot of what we do."

The couple retired early to focus on each other.

"We feel that it probably makes our marriage deeper, we've had each other," Patsy said.

"It's gotten stronger, she is my life. She's a great person the smartest person I know and that's going some place," Dave said.

The most unsettling thing about this crippling illness is there's no cure. Even though devices implanted in Dave's brain trick it into thinking there's dopamine, he still struggles with the disease.

"I try to maintain a sense of humor," he said.

That's where the Michael J Fox show comes in, putting Parkinson's in the national spotlight.

"Show people more and more features and characters of Parkinson's and even now people don't understand the disease and it has a lot of components," Patsy said.
"I hope that they learn from it that it's not the end of the world and it isn't," Dave said.

Dave hasn't let Parkinson's hamper his happiness, much like Fox. He's hoping more people will do the same.

"When you're laughing it's hard to be unhappy."

The Dalton's are hosting a watch party for the show's premiere for the local Parkinson's support group. The pair also runs a support group at the Lake of the Ozarks. Patsy said it's important to have people to relate to when you're struggling with an illness like Parkinson's.

"It's wonderful to have other people who are like you and dealing with Parkinson's, you have somebody to talk to you and share questions with," Patsy said.

For more information on Parkinson's disease, click here