RobertWarner.jpg

Robert Warner lives in Tehachapi, loves the outdoors, cycling and spending time with his family of six.

April is designated as World Parkinson’s Month. This April’s Parkinson’s month is a special one because more than 80 Parkinson’s disease organizations and thousands of advocates from 83 countries announced the launch of "The Spark," a new international symbol for Parkinson’s awareness, to increase conversation and public awareness regarding the world’s fastest-growing neurological disease. The Spark symbol will be promoted and shared around the world during World Parkinson’s Day on Monday, April 11. Here are just a couple of examples of what you can share.

The Spark, inspired by dopamine — a critical electro-chemical neurotransmitter that people with the disease are striving to retain — will be used to energize a global movement and inspire urgency, unity and hope to end Parkinson’s Disease.

My name is Rob Warner. I live in Tehachapi and I have PD. it is thought to be an old person’s disease but 10 percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed in their 40s or younger. I was diagnosed at age 33 and have been dealing with PD for 15 years. There is no cure for PD. It robs people of their independence and ability to support a family. It is estimated that PD costs individuals, families and the government $51.9 billion per year.

I work as a flight test engineer at Edwards AFB, a job that I’ve loved for 23 years but can no longer do. One of the biggest physical challenges for me is freezing gait, which makes me feel like my feet are nailed to the floor. I’ll lean forward, praying my feet will begin to move, but I sometimes fall, bump into people or scare my dog to death as she thinks I am attacking her!

When my medicine finally kicks in and I’m finally “on,” my freezing improves but then comes the uncomfortable and physically draining dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is extra involuntary movement, a side effect of the dopamine-producing drug Sinemet, a 60-year-old drug but still the most effective drug treating Parkinson’s. My dyskinesia keeps me up all night and causes my leg to flail uncontrollably, making walking extremely difficult and sometimes impossible.

Parkinson’s is a misunderstood disease and the lack of awareness makes people with Parkinson’s vulnerable and discriminated against. Many live in constant pain. They often lose their voice, their confidence, the luxury of sleep, as well as their ability to control their automatic functions, their limbs and their future.

This World Parkinson’s Day, we are calling on those impacted by the disease to stand up, speak out and unite to end Parkinson’s.

People can join our movement by sharing The Spark with friends, family and on social media channels on Monday, April 11. The Spark toolkit can be downloaded at www.worldparkinsonsday.com. People can either personalize The Spark or share one of dozens of pre-made graphics. You can easily share with friends, family or via your social accounts like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Use our hashtags #worldparkinsonsday and #thespark to get the word out!

Robert Warner lives in Tehachapi, loves the outdoors, cycling and spending time with his family of six.