Jim DeFreece is an owner agent with Impact Financial, accomplished musician that plays with two bands, married to a Parkinson’s patient, proud father.
The tremors were the first thing we noticed. She was a schoolteacher, and her hand would start shaking with some of the school paper. I noticed it in her handwriting in the checkbook for example. Some days her handwriting would be perfect and then other days it would look completely different. So, we started to suspect there was something going on. Eventually it developed into more dyskinesia (involuntary movement) and fatigue was a big factor. That is probably one of the toughest things to deal with because it was just tough to make it through a whole day without resting or napping.
I go with her to a lot of her doctor appointments. About every three months, they continually have to change the dosage or timing of the medicine. The brain is incredibly powerful, so it tends to eventually outsmart the medication. It’s always a struggle trying to get the right dosage at the right time, to stay ahead of the disease. It’s an ongoing process.
The most challenging (thing for me) honestly, just trying to be patient. I had to learn to be very patient. The speech pattern is different. Obviously, the physical challenges are huge. Just the communication, the speech, it takes longer to process, to tell stories, or to give me information. I’m trying to learn greater patience in this whole thing.
We’ve read several books together and a couple of Michael J. Fox’s books have been very helpful. Some of those we were reading as she was going through the same stages of Parkinson’s that he was going through, so it was almost paralleling with her life at the time. A lot of that was very helpful to her and for me as the caregiver. It has been challenging but we are continually trying learn everything about it and then try to be both reactive and proactive so that we can do more things to help with the disease and progression itself.
We got involved (with KiMe) a couple years ago, when a neighbor invited us to one of the fundraisers. We immediately started getting more involved working on a lot of the auction items and the sponsors and just trying to help generate as many sponsorship dollars and things of that nature as we could. Then we both became much more involved in the last couple years with the “Shakin’ Not Stirred” event itself, chairing and co-chairing some of the committees to help everybody do as much as we can for Parkinson’s… It’s definitely a challenge every day, but we’re getting through it together with a lot of help from other folks and information. We’re learning to navigate it day by day.
About Faith McGhee
After 17-year-old Faith McGhee graduated early from Oak Ridge High School in 2022, she sought out a new assignment—researching Parkinson’s disease. It was at a 2022 KiMe Fund Volunteer meeting the idea developed. Over the next few months McGhee made time to interview doctors, caregivers and patients, chronicling their stories of the neurological disorder that steals a person’s ability to move, eat and speak. What sparked her curiosity and concern? Faith’s grandfather has suffered from Parkinson’s her whole life. “The word I would use to describe him—it’s just strong,” she said. “He’s persevered through everything and he’s always been there for me and I try to do the same for him now.” Faith intends for these interviews to be a source of information, education and inspiration.