“My dad and mom had a condo in Florida,” Tim said. “And dad started having difficulty driving and he was hallucinating.”
The family knew nothing about Parkinson’s, which affects 10 million people worldwide, when Jim Drake was diagnosed in late 1999.
“Dad had a growth on his vocal cords, and he was a smoker,” Tim said. “He had surgery to have it removed and we noticed his gait was leaning to one side.”
At first attributing his father’s issues to his surgery, Tim and his wife, Mindy, started researching other potential causes. Jim’s family doctor suspected Parkinson’s and referred him to a specialist in Englewood.
“We started learning more about the disease by reading a lot,” Tim said. “Dad didn’t have the usual tremors as much, but more the rigidity in his limbs and his motion was affected.”
Throughout his father’s battle with the disease, Tim said the family was frustrated with the lack of availability of doctors specializing in the disease. They couldn’t find much information about Parkinson’s treatments, either.
According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, the disease is characterized by tremors, mainly while a person is at rest, slowness of movement, limb stiffness and gait and balance problems. Non motor symptoms include depression, anxiety, apathy, hallucinations, sleep disorders and cognitive impairments.
In 2005, Jim died at age 76. PD is not usually listed as a cause of death, but it contributes to it. Most diagnosed with Parkinson’s die with it, not from it, according to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. About 90,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the U.S. alone.
“In the years after Dad’s death, we wanted to take our focus on helping fight the disease to the next level,” Tim said. “We realized there were too many things we didn’t know about Dad’s journey.”
After retiring in 2013, Tim and Mindy decided to devote more time to Parkinson’s cause and reached out to the Parkinson’s Foundation Executive Director Daniel Davis in Columbus.
“Mindy and I made up our minds that we wanted to take this to a local level, right here in Miami County,” Tim said.
The couple met Davis and ended up attending the first “Moving Day” event in Dayton in 2018. More than a typical fundraising walk, the event is “celebration of movement,” since one way to stave off Parkinson’s symptoms is to keep moving as much as possible. The events feature a special “movement pavilion,” featuring yoga, dance, Pilates and Tai Chi demonstrations. Funds raised are used to support Parkinson’s research and to eventually find a cure.
“We heard that Miami County didn’t have a support group for PD patients and caregivers,” Mindy said. “We decided to start our own in 2019.”
The couple also started their own family foundation — the Tim Drake Family Fund — to help cover the cost of registration for the “Delay the Disease” wellness program — a trademarked initiative with Premier Health in Troy. The fund pays 100% of the registration for Tipp City residents and half the fee for anyone else living in Miami County.
“Over the years I had some exposure to PD,” Mindy, a retired nurse, said. “But it’s not nearly at the level we see nowadays. We didn’t learn about medication and exercise importance until we started taking care of Tim’s dad.”
Besides encouraging Parkinson’s patients to exercise and keep moving, the Drakes also are hoping to find more doctors specializing in Parkinson’s in the area because many members of their support group are driving to Cleveland Clinic, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo for care.
“Our driving force comes from the people in this group,” Tim said. “They do as much for us as we do for them.”
And this is due to the inspiring stories they share. Over just a few years, the group has nearly doubled in size — with 44 people working to help one another through the Parkinson’s journey.
“Our support group meets every month at the Tipp City Senior Citizen’s Center,” Tim said. “We have caregivers and patients, all stories to tell. Seeing them cope and motivate themselves to fight this disease is so encouraging.”
Actor Michael J. Fox has put a face to the disease and has been working to raise awareness and funds since his public acknowledgement of his diagnosis in 1998, seven years after he was initially diagnosed at 29.
Locally, the Drakes will be joining hundreds of other supporters, patients and caregivers at the Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day Dayton Event, Saturday, May 6, at the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering.
For more information, check out the Parkinson’s Moving Day site for the Dayton area at https://movingdaywalk.org/event/moving-day-dayton/