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WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 19, 2009, 08:04 AM

New options for Parkinson's treatment

(WDAY TV) - Patients with Parkinson’s here in the Valley have a new option for treatment. MeritCare has started the L-S-V-T Big program and just a few months in, it's making a big difference in the lives of patients. Last night, our friend, former WDAY Anchor Marv Bossart shared his courageous story as he battles this difficult disease.

By: Kerstin Kealy, WDAY



(WDAY TV) - Patients with Parkinson’s here in the Valley have a new option for treatment. MeritCare has started the L-S-V-T Big program and just a few months in, it's making a big difference in the lives of patients. Last night, our friend, former WDAY Anchor Marv Bossart shared his courageous story as he battles this difficult disease. Tonight, how Big and the L-S-V-T Loud program are giving Marv back and others like him what Parkinson's threatens to steal away.

As a News Anchor for 42 years, Marv Bossart was known for his voice. 7 years after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, he is fighting to keep it.

“I hate the fact that my voice is fading, I made my living on my voice.”

He's among 89% of those with Parkinson’s who have problems with speech.

“His biggest complaint coming in to see me was that he was losing himself in crowds in people and not being heard and not understanding that.”

The Loud program is an intensive month long speech therapy that recalibrates your brain, teaching you to think loud and talk loud. It's showing dramatic results.

“You can see in one day, day one progress.”

From Loud to Big, Marv re-learns what many of us take for granted. Things like getting up from a chair, reaching, and walking.

“Marv has one of the best attitudes I’ve ever seen.”

Since the program started at MeritCare in May, Physical Therapist Laura Guse has used big to help Parkinson’s patients walk faster with bigger steps and have better balance, a serious safety issue for those with Parkinson’s.

“I was getting along just fine and one day all of a sudden I fell in our driveway and I fell hard.”

Laura says the results from big have shown twice the improvement for Parkinson’s patients than traditional physical therapy.

“They really feel empowered over their disease and they have a lot more confidence in the way that they move, they feel less fearful of falling.”

Marv's doctor, MeritCare Neurologist Dr. Tanya Harlow, says up to 70 percent of her patients here at NRI have Parkinson's.

“I could spend my entire time as a physician just seeing Parkinson’s disease because there are that any patients.”

She and Marv talked about another option for treatment, deep brain stimulation, but Marv decided it wasn't worth the risks, instead opting for physical therapy and medication.

“He’s becoming more advanced as far as his Parkinson’s disease goes so the motor complications I mentioned before as far as the diskinesias are starting to become more problematic for him.”

Dr. Harlow says the key to one day curing this brain disorder is figure out what causes it. Something she is hopeful will happen in the next decade.

“I think it's going to be a breakthrough. There's so much research going in I’m hoping it's going to be sooner rather than later.

For now the key to fighting this disease, something Marv knows well, staying active.

“I’m not going to give up without a fight of some kind.”

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