Sibling ex-Ads upbeat despite Parkinson's
Alan Sloan - Thu, Mar, 11, 2010
The Farragut Press
One Dorwin brother, Pat, helped lead Farragut High School to the 1982 Class AAA baseball state championship as a standout left fielder and one of the team's leading hitters.
His younger brother, Pete, helped lead the Admirals to a No. 2 state finish in 1988 as a standout centerfielder.
But by age 40, both brothers were diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, a chronic, progressive neurological disease attacking nerve cells in the brain that coordinate muscle movement, causing tremors and muscular rigidity.
However, “I'll never ask why,” said Pete, 40, now living in West Knoxville.
Righthanded, Pete’s disease has attacked the right side of his body.
Still, “Life could be a lot worse, I could have a terminal disease,” he said.
“I know this isn't a great thing, but I think I can fight it off for quite a while and then eventually, hopefully, I'll be in the position where I can retire someday and I won't have to worry about it,” he added. “I'm more of an optimist than a pessimist ... when people say, 'Why me?' I say, 'Why not me?'”
About Pat, “My brother has it a little bit worse than me,” Pete said.
Pat, a reporter/editor with “The Mountain Press” in his hometown of Sevierville before becoming a “stay-at-home-dad” in 2005 due to his illness, was active in club rugby until age 35.
Also righthanded, Pat’s illness has struck his left side.
Fearing he'd pass on Parkinson's to his children, Pat, 45, said in 2006 he was tested “at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. ... that came back negative.”
Diagnosed at 38, Pat said simple tasks can be challenging, such as “buttoning pants, tying shoes. ... It's hard for me to sit and stay comfortable. It's hard for me to sleep.
“It's progressed where I have trouble getting out of chairs, off couches, and, like turning over in bed,” he added. “It's a struggle for me at times. Sometimes I'll be in a grocery store and my foot cramps up, and I've got to rest there for 15 minutes.”
Even though Pat said his symptoms “have gotten worse in the last two years,” he added, “I don't have any complaints.”
With support from wife, Angie, and children, Eli, 5, and Addison Grace, 3, Pat said he's “pretty laid back, so even when I was diagnosed I wasn't worried.”
In keeping with the spirit of “no complaints” from the brothers, they've helped spearhead a special Parkinson's fundraising effort during the Admirals' annual “Throwback Night” baseball games at FHS’s John Heatherly Field Thursday, April 29.
Proceeds benefit National Parkinson's Foundation, as Bearden takes on Karns beginning at 5 p.m., followed by FHS against Oak Ridge at 7:30 p.m.
Realizing “there was no young Parkinson's support groups in Knoxville,” Pat met local author Ellen Burgoyne Hubrig.
Hubrig recent re-published and updated a book written by her great-grandfather, “Daily Thoughts For Friendly Fellows,” noted for its words of inspiration through tragedy and severe adversity.
Hubrig's father and grandfather were Parkinson's victims.
Pat said he contacted Matt Buckner, new FHS varsity baseball head coach, attempting to combine baseball and Parkinson's fundraising.
“It amazed me, the first thing he said was, 'Why don't we do it for a Throwback Game,'” Pat said about Buckner. “He knew I was a former Admiral, and that he extended his help without any prompting, that was wonderful.”
Pat said he recently informed his high school coach, John Heatherly, about the brothers' plight. “He was surprised, of course, that it happened to both Pete and I.
“He's a real humble guy and a real nice person, and you could tell he was concerned. He said he'd do anything he could to help us with the Throwback Game.”
Pete drives grading trucks for an excavation company “all day long with my right hand,” adding, “It gets frustrating.
“Some of the stuff I usually could do real quick, now it takes me three times as long.”
However, “Maybe the fact that I'm active, that I was doing something everyday, that I've worked out three or four times a week, has helped put the symptoms on the backburner,” Pete added.
But with the recent economic downturn, “It's become slow at work, and I think the symptoms got worse because I wasn't busy everyday,” Pete said. “I'd have two or three days off here and there.”