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Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Parkinson's Symposium in Yuma

The APDA Power over Parkinson's symposium in my hometown of Yuma, Arizona, had been in the planning stages for months. A suitable venue had been booked. Email invitations had been sent out. Flyers were printed and handed out at our support group meeting. Members took extra flyers and posted them in their Doctors offices and in the clubhouses where they lived. The Yuma Sun newspaper ran a detailed story about it on the top of page A2 and continued to run a smaller notice in the "What's Going On" section every day. Public radio station KAWC ran a PSA about it. RSVP's were rolling in like crazy.

Everything was going great, until the day of the event. Two Parkinson's Specialists from Tucson would share their expertise with the Yuma medical community at a "professional lunch" event prior to the public event. I had provided a long list of area physician groups, neurologists, clinics, rehab places and even the Professors of the Nursing and EMT programs at the college to the APDA. Space had been reserved at a restaurant near the hospital. Lunch would be provided free. Everyone on the list was contacted and invited to attend. Guess what? Only FIVE responded! An endocrinologist and 4 non-medical staff from the rehab hospital. 

I live in this town. I know these medical offices close for lunch. The restaurant was near to their offices and yet, none of them wanted to learn anything NEW about Parkinson's. I felt bad for the visiting Parkinson's specialists, but we had a nice visit over lunch. Doctors are normal people when not at work, they tease, laugh and tell jokes! And then it was on to the public event.        

By the time we got to the venue, the parking lot was full and we had to park half a block away. All 150 seats were taken and the staff scrounged up some more chairs and squeezed them in around the perimeter of the room. 

Dr. Kathryn Bradley spoke first. She went to the University of Arizona Medical School in Tucson and did her Movement Disorder Residency at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, before returning to Tucson to work at the Center for Neurosciences. She gave an easy to understand presentation and answered lots of questions. 
Dr. Bradley

After a short break, Dr. Thomas Norton spoke. Dr. Norton is the neurosurgeon who did my DBS surgery and has worked at the Center for Neurosciences in Tucson since 1973. His presentation was a bit more technical, but after all, you can't make talking about drilling holes into peoples skulls humorous, can you? Well, I probably could!

He answered questions and then he got asked the one question that comes up at every Parkinson's seminar I've attended: What about medical marijuana?  

His answer was the same as all the others who've been asked. He's heard anecdotal stories, from patients, that it helps them with tremor, rigidity, pain and sleep issues, but that there hasn't been much clinical research done on it.

I spoke last. I told the people about our support group and that I had some of my Parkinson's Humor books for sale and it was over. The Docs headed back to Tucson and I came home and wrote this story. 

PS: Why isn't more research done on marijuana?
Even though use of it, either for medicinal or recreational purposes is legal in some US States, it is still illegal FEDERALLY. 

Why is this? Back in 1970, the US Government decided that marijuana (cannabis) should be declared a Schedule I substance. This classification means that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Because of this classification, the researchers don't want their grant monies rescinded, or face federal fines, so not much research is done. Getting the classification changed is unlikely any time soon, though researchers have been trying since 1972.

FYI: Here in Arizona, medical marijuana is legal with a State issued ID card, however, if you drive through a US Customs & Border Patrol check-point (they are on all the roads near the southern border) and they find your medical marijuana, they will confiscate it, because they are a Federal agency. 
YumaBev and Dr. Thomas Norton

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