WINONA LAKE — When Pam Baucom was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight years ago, she was devastated.
“I was totally surprised. I cried,” she recalled.
Today, she is group leader of Kosciusko County Parkinson’s Support Group. It’s a forum for those afflicted with the disease to get educated and receive support, while dealing with the day-to-day struggles of the condition.
A Winona Lake resident, Baucom was diagnosed with the disease when she was 60 years old. A secretary at Zimmer at the time, she started having tremors in her left hand and in three fingers. Her doctor suggested an MRI of the brain and, armed with the results, she was sent to a neurologist in Fort Wayne for a diagnosis.
“He told me I had Parkinson’s-like symptoms,” Baucom said.
Baucom said Parkinson’s disease is hard to diagnose right away but it is not hereditary or deadly. “People don’t die from Parkinson’s,” added Baucom.
Currently, she sees Dr. Kevin McGeehan, Woman leads Parkinson’s support groupa practicing neurology doctor in Warsaw, who is able to help her manage the disease. Sometimes, the doctor comes to the meetings. He will speak at next month’s meeting. Last October, Baucom had surgery to implant a device, a deep brain stimulation system, in her chest that helps manage brain activity and reduce tremors.
Deep brain stimulation systems are used to manage symptoms of certain movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.
Baucom reports that the stimulator has helped her immensely. Baucom said the support group has also been a blessing.
“It’s a place to share, learn, pray and understand,” she said. “We can give hope to one another. All are blessings to me.”
The group was formed four years ago by two other people. On average, the support group has anywhere from 24 people to as high as 30 people attending the meetings.
Baucom was asked to be group leader in March. As group leader, she is in charge of getting the monthly speakers. One of the most requested topics for the group’s discussions are speech.
She was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She lived in southern California before moving to Elkhart County, where she spent 10 years. She has lived in Winona Lake for the past 10 years. Baucom has been married to husband Joe for 45 years. They have three children and three grandchildren. She is an active member of Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church. She said her faith has gotten her though the tough times. “I’ve had a lot of people praying for me,” she stated.
As a way to help others, she started making walker seat covers, which she gives away to strangers and friends. “It blesses them and it blesses me,” she smiled.
Kosciusko County’s Parkinson’s Support Group meets from 6:30-7:30 p.m. the second Friday of each month, in the administrative offices/classrooms, on the north side of the Kosciusko Community Hospital site.
(This article originally was published in ‘the PAPER’ July 27)