My Story: Bonnie Kays

Bonnie Kays might be one of the most active members of the Franklin Support Group. Not only is Bonnie on the Steering Committee, but she participates regularly in the Peterson Painters, Peterson Crafters and the Women with PD support group. If you are at any Franklin event, you can’t miss Bonnie.

Originally from Buffalo, NY Bonnie and her husband, David, moved to Franklin in 1990 after living in Michigan, Missouri, California and West Virginia. Since moving to Tennessee she has been very active with Williamson County schools and teaching parenting classes at the Williamson County Jail. “I hope they let me back in jail soon!” said Bonnie, since she has not been able to teach since COVID.

In 2019, Bonnie began noticing a tremor and realized she was moving slower. It was then she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Since being diagnosed Bonnie stated, “I feel like PD has taken my energy”. However, one wouldn’t notice since Bonnie keeps herself busy with PFP, teaching, reading, volunteering, and attending youth mission trips with her church (Franklin First United Methodist Church). She has also been know to zip line, parasail, and white water raft.

Bonnie learned about PFP through her doctor and as a member of the same church and friends for years, she was invited by the Torrence’s to attend the Franklin Support Group meetings. The Foundation has not only helped Bonnie learn about Parkinson’s but has provided her an outlet to be with individuals with similar experiences. “PFP has helped me cope with Parkinson’s just by being such a welcoming, supportive community.”

 

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My Story: Reggie Gaulle

If you have ever been to a Franklin Support Group meeting, or attended the Navigating the Parkinson’s Path Annual Expo, you have probably been greeted by Reggie.

Reggie Gaulle has been a part of the Parkinson’s community since 2008, when Patricia, Reggie’s wife was diagnosed with PD. Reggie was observing new tremors, increased fatigue, and cognitive decline in Patricia when they decided to visit her doctor for a diagnosis. As a care partner, Reggie has learned how Patricia’s “new brain” works and her changing limitations. “She and I have survived my cooking; the bills are paid, and the house is not in too bad a shape,” joked Reggie when asked how life has changed since retiring in 2020 and taking on more household tasks. Together, they enjoy traveling, watching tv, spending time with others and helping others in the Parkinson’s Community.

Reggie is part of the Franklin Support Group Steering Committee and head of the Encouragement Team Leaders. “The fellowship with others, who have been touched by this disease, has been invaluable,” said Reggie. The programs, services, and information provided through PFP events have provided insight on how to navigate this journey the Gaulle’s call life. “It is not over yet. However, with the help of the professionals in our lives [great doctors, nurses and therapists] and the fellowship we have met on this journey, I feel that we will both make it, and continue to enjoy the latter part of our life together.”

 

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My Story: Don Thomas

The Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s had the opportunity to speak with Nashville native, Don Thomas and his journey with Parkinson’s. Don grew up in the Nashville area for most of his life. He attended Glencliff High School and then to Middle TN State University for college and graduate school.   In 1973, he married his wife, Vicki, and they have 3 children and 2 grandchildren.  Before retiring Don worked in medical sales and sales management, including VP of Sales for OrthoHelix Medical.

After experiencing tremors in his left hand, Don visited Dr. Fang at Vanderbilt and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012. It was the same Dr. Fang who introduced him to PFP. Don says “interaction with the members [of PFP support groups] and hearing how they approach their myriad of problems faced day to day” support him throughout his Parkinson’s journey. Not only does the foundation provide support for Don, but he stated his wife has built a support system.

Even though Don is living with Parkinson’s he is not letting the diagnosis affect his golf game or spending time with his grandchildren in Charleston, SC.

 

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My Story: Brent & Tami Peterson

Brent and Tami began their journey with Parkinson’s in 2002, when Brent was first diagnosed. At that time, he was the Assistant Head Coach for the Nashville Predators and decided to keep his diagnosis a secret. It was not until 2004, when the Petersons decided to announce Brent’s diagnosis.

As a public figure, Brent wanted to provide support to others in the Middle Tennessee area fighting this disease and in 2009 Brent and Tami founded the Peterson for Parkinson’s Foundation. When asked about how PFP has impacted his life Brent said “My wife and I have been able to meet with many wonderful people in the Parkinson’s community. We also have had great support from our friends and family. The most important thing that we have found is our director, Debbie Lowenthall, who has supported us from the very beginning along with her husband Jay.”

In 2011, several years after continuing to coach the Nashville hockey team, Brent underwent a four-part procedure known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). Brent still needs to take medication after undergoing DBS, but has seen a reduction of his PD symptoms. Now he says his current symptoms are rigidity, slow movements and small tremors. “I still have trouble shaving and getting dressed.” Brent stated.

Brent and Tami continue to stay active in the PFP community attending meetings and participating in the annual golf tournament.

To learn more about Brent’s journey, check out his book “My Toughest Face Off”.

 

 

 

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