Neurosciences Patient Story: Paula Moore

Teamwork, Support Help Woman Cope with Parkinson’s Disease

At age 83, Paula Moore knows hospitals well, both as a volunteer for 35 years, and as a patient. Paula and her husband, Jim, live in Brookfield, with their 14-year-old dog, Megan.

In recent years, Paula has coped with many medical problems, including Ménière’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear that can affect hearing and balance), thyroid surgery and knee problems. Because of severe hearing loss, she had surgery to implant a cochlear device to enhance her sense of sound.

Then in 2004, Paula started to have headaches. “I went to a physician (not at Froedtert) who kept prescribing heavy doses of medication, but it didn’t help, and I was getting worse,” she said. Paula lived with the headaches for more than two years. She also noticed she had slight tremors.

“I had been seeing Dr. (P. Ashley) Wackym (a Medical College of Wisconsin otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon) at Froedtert for treatment of Ménière’s disease and hearing loss,” Paula said. Dr. Wackym performed Paula’s cochlear implant surgery. Senior audiologist Linda Burg also worked with and helped Paula for several years.

“Dr. Wackym’s assistant, Tammy Schumacher-Monfre, knew my headaches weren’t getting better. She and Dr. Wackym referred me to Dr. (Safwan) Jaradeh at Froedtert.”

Paula saw Dr. Jaradeh, a Medical College of Wisconsin neurologist, in October 2006. “He suspected I had Parkinson’s disease and arranged for tests,” she said.

Paula did, indeed, have Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that occurs when certain nerve cells in a part of the brain die or become impaired. Normally, these cells produce a chemical called dopamine that allows coordinated function of muscles and movement. When a high percentage of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. The major signs are tremor (shaking), slowness of movement, stiffness and difficulty with balance. The disease affects an estimated 1.5 million people in the United States and about one in 100 Americans over age 60.

Dr. Jaradeh referred Paula to Serena Hung, MD, a Medical College of Wisconsin neurologist who specializes in Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Dr. Hung and other team members in the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Program offer the most comprehensive care available in the region to help people with movement disorders to live fuller lives. Knowledgeable and experienced team members evaluate and treat the entire range of movement disorders, from the common to the rare.

“At Froedtert, they draw the best people,” Paula said.

Paula first saw Dr. Hung in October 2007. Under her care, Paula began a comprehensive program that included medication, physical therapy with Jessica Doine, PT; occupational therapy with Bill Reinhard, OT; and voice exercises with speech-language pathologist Laurie Dulitz, MS. (Most people with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in speech, voice and swallowing at some point in their disease.) Paula completed the therapy program over two months during the winter.

“Every single therapist I had I just loved,” she said. “They’re all so dedicated and very enthusiastic about this program. It was very productive time, and I’m continuing the therapy I learned at home.”

Paula also met with Vicki Conte, Parkinson Program coordinator who, in conjunction with the team social worker and nurses, helps patients connect with community resources. Conte also facilitates Parkinson’s disease support groups, provides one-on-one education to patients, and offers support for patients and family members.

Paula joined the Parkinson’s support group held at Small Stones in Brookfield and sponsored by Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. “It’s very worthwhile,” she said. “The first speaker was my speech therapist, Laurie, and the second speaker was my physical therapist, Jessica. After a few times, you begin to see bonding among people; they feel free to talk about their problems. Vicki is dynamite at drawing people out.

“They stress in the group to only view credible information on Parkinson’s disease on your computer (avoiding chat rooms and blogs). While there are similarities among Parkinson’s patients, each person’s disease is different, and some things may never occur.”

Paula continues to take medication each day for Parkinson’s disease and Ménière’s disease. “Although I need to rest a couple of times each day, I’m functional,” she said. “The medication is treating the symptoms of my Parkinson’s disease.”

She also continues exercises to strengthen her mouth muscles. “I have a ‘think loud’ sign on my fridge, reminding me to talk loud and talk a lot,” she said.

Paula and Jim enjoy eating out two or three times a week, visiting their two sons and three grandsons, and getting together with friends.