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West Milford Area Resident Proactive Against Parkinson's

Gerry Mulligan, wife of the late West Milford Mayor John Mulligan, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at the age of 54 in 1996. She told Aim West Milford that since being stricken she has tried to be proactive in finding ways to control her symptoms and to remain fully functional. This includes exercise, supplements, and a minimum of medications. She is now teaching others with the disease what she has learned and sharing her experiences with them.

The same year that Mulligan found she had Parkinson’s Jean Crowe, at 56, had the same diagnosis. Crowe said in conversation at a meeting in April that she, after being diagnosed with PD, suffered greatly with people acting differently toward her, even fearing they might catch the disease if they touched something she touched at her work. Stressed, she took early retirement. Later her marriage ended.

Now a resident at Van Dyk she organized a group for patients, caregivers, relatives and friends hoping to help make life a bit easier for them. Her efforts were strengthened with the arrival and participation of Mulligan.

Meetings are held at the Van Dyk facility, adjacent to Bald Eagle Commons in West Milford on the third Thursday of each month. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend.

"I did not have a PD support group in my area so I have done a lot of reading to learn as much as I can," Mulligan said. "A friend whose husband has PD and I attempted to start a PD support group in Vernon but she had to discontinue being involved when her husband’s health deteriorated. I know several others with Parkinson’s but they are all in more advanced stages. I have participated in two research studies and considered a few others."

Mulligan said that last year she saw an announcement about a PD support group in West Milford.

"I called the advertised number and talked to Jean Crowe," Mulligan said. "Jean said she did not get any other response to her newspaper announcement but invited me to lunch with her to compare notes on PD. We worked together to start the current PD Can Do Club at Van Dyk Valley in West Milford."

Mulligan said that in February 2010 more than 40 people living across the United States with PD, including one Highland Lakes resident, participated in the Parkinson’s disease Foundation’s (PDF) Second Clinical Research Learning Institute in Florham Park. She said the Learning Institute educated its participants about the ways that people living with PD can contribute to new treatments and a cure for the disease.

The Highland Lakes resident who attended the Institute was Gerry Mulligan. She was among a diverse group of business leaders, scientists and educators from 24 states who gathered in New Jersey to participate at the Institute. Mulligan is a retired businesswoman who held positions with both small local businesses and a Fortune 500 company in New Jersey. After being diagnosed with PD she has continued to be very involved with her community and church. Now she is dedicated to taking a more active role with Parkinson’s advocacy.

"During the training we attended three days of courses led by national experts who covered topics such as the basics of clinical research and discussed new Parkinson’s therapies that are currently being studied by scientists," Mulligan said. "I am ready to work on a local level to impact the development of new therapies and to raise awareness among people living with Parkinson’s about the role they can play. I learned so much valuable information at the Learning Institute about how people with Parkinson’s can impact the development of new treatment for our disease. I believe that everyone living with the disease deserves to have access to this information, so I started to work locally to spread the word about the importance of clinical studies in finding new therapies.

A Parkinson’s disease Foundation hand-out with facts about the disease explains that PD is a chronic and progressive movement disorder that involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons.

The brochure states: "Some of these dying neutrons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As Parkinson’s progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally."

Statistics reported by the Parkinson’s disease Foundation are that as many as one million Americans and an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide live with PD. There are 60,000 people diagnosed every year in the United States, with the average age of onset being 60 years of age.

Note from PDF:

Gerry Mulligan, mentioned in the new story above, is one of PDF's research advocates, working through the PAIR (Parkinson's Advocates in Research) program. PAIR is a network of more than 100 research advocates living with Parkinson's from 36 states who work to bring educated consumer voices to important issues in Parkinson's therapy development.

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Source Date: Jun 03 2011
Source Publication: By Ann Genader, Correspondent /
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