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Seattle PI Special Parkinson’s Report

Tuesday April 03, 2001

Parkinson’s disease is a cruel magician. It makes its victims slowly disappear.


It mutes their voices, erases their expressions, robs them of their motor control. Finally, they freeze in a kind of suspended animation, disappearing behind the blank stare of the "Parkinson’s mask."

Part of a Seattle Post-Intellgencer Special Report

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Seattle PI Special Parkinson’s Report

Tuesday April 03, 2001

Dr. Phil Ballard had seen all sorts of bizarre patients in psychiatric emergency rooms. But he’d never seen one like George Carillo.


It was 1982, and Ballard - now head of the Movement Disorder Program at Swedish Medical Center - was completing a neurology fellowship at Stanford University. He’d been called in to consult on a 42-year-old man who sat frozen mid-gesture, unblinking and lifeless except for normal organ function. There was no evidence of mental activity.


"He had a blank stare and was stiff as a board," Ballard said. Since the patient had come from jail, many doctors who saw him suspected he was faking catatonic schizophrenia to get out of trouble.


But it was no act.

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Seattle PI Special Parkinson’s Report

Tuesday April 03, 2001

Paul Gladstone understands at a more intimate level than most the anatomy of the damaged brain.


As a scientist, he is on working terms with the intricate molecular pathways in the brain. He can describe what happens when neurons die and neurotransmitters disappear. He details which circuits get disrupted, which loops of neural programming get erased.


As a patient, he lives with the consequences.


On this particular day, Gladstone, 51, is hunched over his kitchen table contemplating the links between the immune system and the central nervous system, two areas of particular scientific interest to him.

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Seattle PI Special Parkinson’s Report

Tuesday April 03, 2001

Parkinson’s disease can be paralyzing, not just in its symptoms, but in its effects on family members as well.


Bill Bell of Seattle remembers his feelings of immobilization and helplessness when he learned that his mother had Parkinson’s.


"The frightening aspect of finding out a loved one has Parkinson’s is that then you’re on your own," he said. There’s no one-stop resource center to tell the patient and family what to expect, or how to cope.

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