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Kirk started writing articles for his blog around the time his first book was published (September 2011). Not having any other bright ideas at the time, he adopted the book title as his “brand” for the blog. Over time, Shaky Paws Grampa (SPG) has become his “identity” in the PD world. The good news is that he hasn’t had to fight anybody for it and there was no competition for the web address (understandably).

He didn’t have any clear goals in mind for the blog when he started other than to make his target audience the “PD world”, opting to write about what ever inspired him at the moment. Over time, various themes emerged:

Book or writing-related
PD-related information
Clinical research study advocacy/participation
Cognition issues
Living with PD-personal
PD meeting/conference announcements
SPG speaking engagements, media interviews, and webinars
Calls to action
Personal

Three years later, he has posted 120 articles that have been viewed by readers from over 60 countries around the world.
Kirk Hall

Destiny?

In the classic comedy film by Mel Brooks, Young Frankenstein, Gene Wilder plays Baron Beaufort Von Frankenstein’s grandson. In his role as a university professor (he chooses to pronounce his name Fronkensteen) he is tormented by questions from his students who are aware of his heritage about whether he plans to continue his grandfather’s work. Though he dismisses these experiments as “doo doo”, he finds himself in his grandfather’s castle. He has a nightmare in which he responds to a voice that seems to be trying to get him to admit that carrying on his grandfather’s work is his destiny. He finally submits to this suggestion, shouting “Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!” Based on the outcome of the movie (definitely a must-see for fans of Mel Brooks movies), it is obvious that, in fact, destiny was at work.

But what about in real life? Is destiny real or is it a figment of our imaginations? Like the basis for faith (belief), the answer to this question can’t be proved. It is up to each of us to decide.

Thus, I have completed a “way too grandiose” introduction of a subject I have wondered about for many years. There have been a number of events in my life that have led me to wonder if destiny is real.

Nikki

My family had a collie named Nikki when I was about three years old. One summer evening, my mom put me to bed. Apparently, I had other plans, as my mom looked out the front window a short time later and saw me pedaling a small toy vehicle across the street in a neighbor’s driveway. Nikki was with me. I was directly behind a delivery or service type truck that had begun backing up. The driver couldn’t see me. Nikki grabbed the back of my shirt in his mouth and dragged me to the side of the driveway. The truck ran over my “ride” and crushed it. If not for Nikki, it is likely that I would have died that day. I know this story is hard to believe. It is hard for me to believe. I had my mom retell it on a video I made of her recounting events from her life when she was about 85. The story has not changed over the years.

Vietnam

I was commissioned as U.S. Army second lieutenant when I graduated from Ohio State. Normally, I would have reported for active duty soon after. However, my wife and I had been married before our senior year and had a 12-month lease on our apartment that was to end three months after graduation, so I was able to delay going on active duty. During the summer, I received a letter offering me the option of going on active duty for “training only” with an extended reserve commitment, which I accepted. As a result, after I completed the Infantry Officer Basic Course (IOBC) at Ft. Benning the end of January 1971, we moved to Florida instead of me going to Vietnam. This is not the same as my other stories in that I would not have necessarily died in Vietnam, but I still see it as an unexpected fortuitous development that removed me from “harm’s way” and changed the course of my life.

Driving to Sarasota

So we hitched a 5x8 U-Haul trailer to the back of our car, a sporty green 1968 Pontiac LeMans that I had bought (at a very reasonable price) from my parents, and we headed for Florida. We stayed with my aunt and uncle in Clearwater while I started my job search and then rented an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in Tampa on a monthly basis (we furnished that place for around $300, but that’s another story). A few weeks later I got a job offer in Sarasota (more than an hour southwest in those days), so we ended our lease and prepared to move (again). At least when we had furniture (using the term loosely) for our next apartment adjacent to the intercoastal waterway across from Siesta Key, which came close to never happening.

We drove to Sarasota a number of times before the move, going the “back way” through Florida farm country on what I think was Florida Route 301. On one of those trips, we got stuck behind something slow (maybe a tractor). As I pulled out to pass (not usually a challenge in our sporty LeMans) what I remember as some type of truck was rapidly coming at us from the other direction. I didn’t have time to think. I swerved off the left side of the road and around a telephone pole before swerving back onto the road beyond the truck. It was a miracle that there were no other obstructions and that the terrain allowed me to get back on the road without having an accident. The car was OK but Linda and I were a wreck! What made it infinitely worse was that my carelessness could have ended both our lives, not just mine.

Colorado Springs Car Accident

I had finished a meeting with my sales and marketing team at Cook Communication, a Christian publishing company in Colorado Springs, during the winter of 1996 (my best guess). I was driving my Subaru Outback “sport utility” wagon from the office to a restaurant to meet the group for dinner. It must have been around 5 pm during the week so it was rush hour. As I drove south on I-25 I was momentarily distracted by something and looked down. How many times has this happened to all of us – when we look back up just in time to have a “near miss” instead of an accident. This time, when I looked back up after a millisecond, the car in front of me (that had moments ago been a safe distance in front of me) had jammed on the brakes (I was probably going 55 mph). Once again (as in the previous story), I only had time to react instinctively. I swerved hard to the right (I was in the far right lane with two lanes to my left), narrowly missing the car in front. I hadn’t had time to see if there was traffic to my left. Everything after that was a blur, but I quickly went across the breakdown lane, bounced off the guard rail back into the highway now in front of the car I had just narrowly missed, continued across the other two lanes while spinning 180 degrees, and came to a stop against the guard rail in the middle. The car was extensively damaged, but I was unhurt. The airbag had not engaged due to the angle at which I hit the guard rail. The police were there quickly and took me to the restaurant a short distance away (I got a ticket for careless driving). To recap, I narrowly missed hitting the car in front of me twice (before and after bouncing off the guard rail), I was saved from going off the road over a steep embankment by the guard rail. I spun across the other two lanes during rush hour without hitting a car, and I came to rest in the middle breakdown lane against the guard rail, not going over the embankment in the middle.

Greensboro car accident

Anyone need a ride? At least this time I was not driving.

Fast forward to 1993. I had just had a nice dinner with my boss and my furniture buyer (I was a VP for the American Express direct mail catalog business). We were in High Point/Greensboro, NC for the furniture market (one of the businesses I managed). I was wearing a suit and neglected to take off the coat off the coat when I got in the “shotgun” seat for the ride back to the hotel. Of course, I decided not to wear my seat belt so as not to wrinkle the coat. If you are wondering when would be a good time to feel a sense of trepidation, it would be now.

With my boss and good friend, the Sr. VP of our division, driving, we approached an intersection going about 35 mph. The light was green as we began to enter the intersection. At the same time, with no warning, a car coming from the opposite direction began a left turn, smashing into our car very close to head on. The driver side airbag activated. My side did not have an airbag. Since I was not wearing a seat belt, I was thrown forward into the windshield, cracking it with my head. The only thing that kept me from going through it was my long legs, which jammed under the glove compartment. I was bleeding from a cut in my forehead, but conscious. My boss had managed to extricate himself from the car (thankfully, he and the other passenger in the back seat were shaken but uninjured) and was trying to open my door, but it was jammed. I could smell gas, so I tried (unsuccessfully) to kick the door open. I don’t know if it was the fire department or police that got it open. Paramedics checked us out and we were taken to a local hospital, where we were treated and, after talking to the police, released. The police told us that the other driver had been drunk and was in custody. I am pretty sure I had a concussion. My whole body hurt but my cuts healed and I was OK after a few days.

Spring Skiing

I am going to guess that it was early April 2004 when Linda and I were invited for a ski weekend at Beaver Creek by a friend and his wife. There were 8-10 people staying in the condo. It was cold and clear when we hit the slopes the first morning. Due to warmer temperatures the previous day, the snow had become slushy and froze overnight. We knew the snow would soften as the day went on, so we weren’t concerned, though spring skiing had never been our preference. At that time I would say that I was an advanced intermediate skier. Steep didn’t bother me, but ice and moguls did. I had grown confident skiing in normal conditions and it was not uncommon for me to go down black (advanced) trails. Black trails always have steep sections and some have moguls that can usually be avoided (I usually avoided moguls altogether but could handle them in a pinch with normal snow). If the hair on the back of your neck is starting to stand up (again, perhaps), it would not be without good reason.

Linda and I usually skied together, but I was alone on a run down the mountain when I came to a black diamond trail going off to the right. I had not been on this trail so I didn’t know what to expect, but I started down with an inappropriate sense of confidence (very bad decision). Things went smoothly until I came around a corner and found myself at the top of a steep, icy hill covered with moguls. I stood there, weighing my options for quite a while. Normally I could pick a line and ski almost horizontally across a mountain until I hit conditions I could handle. Here, there was woods on both sides at the top. I didn’t have a cell phone with me to call for help and there were no other skiers going down. I tried taking my skis off and walking down through the trees on the side of the trail - the snow was up to my hips. I was not wearing a helmet.

I decided to take of my skis and let them slide to the bottom (I am guessing 200 yards). I would keep my poles and attempt to do a controlled slide in a sitting position facing downhill, using my heels and poles to slow me down and steer. It turned out that the ice made that impossible. Within seconds I was sliding downhill on my back headfirst frantically using my gloved hands to steer myself and try to slow down. My head was bouncing on the icy snow as I went over the moguls. I finally reached to bottom and came to a stop. The underside of my right forearm was bleeding from the friction of trying to slow myself down, but nothing was broken. A few people had witnessed my “human luge” run and came to help. They helped my stand up and retrieved my skis and poles. I was very dizzy, but managed to ski a short distance to the bottom of a chair lift. At the top was a ski patrol station. They cleaned up and bandaged my forearm. They said it was likely that I had a concussion from the blow to the back of my head. They put me a “sled stretcher’ and pulled my down the mountain to the bottom. I heard them comment to each other that the part of the run where I had my problem was dangerous and signs would be posted at the top to warn skiers.

Taken one at a time, or even a few of them, it is possible to think of them as “good luck”. All of them together are harder to write off as good fortune. But it doesn’t end there. I have many other experiences, especially since being diagnosed with PD that make me feel blessed. A few examples:

  • My relationship with my doctor who has also become my friend, Benzi Kluger. This by itself is amazing to me.
  • The love and support of my wife and care partner, Linda, and my wonderful family and personal friends.
  • During early 2009, I was praying for God to show me the path He would have me follow. As I finished this prayer, the doorbell rang. A friend from church was dropping off a “prayer shawl” that had been made for me. It was then that I decided to refocus my energy on trying to help others. I hope I have succeeded at least to some degree. I certainly have been given many opportunities to do that.
  • For years, I had thought I would like to write a book, but couldn’t imagine what I would write about. Three books later, I know the answer to that question. The best part has been the conversations I have had with people these books have actually helped! It doesn’t get much better than that.
  • Most of all, I am thankful for the many friends I have made in and around the PD world. They include people I have met through our Gleneagles Village community, Parkinson Association of the Rockies, Parkinson Disease Foundation, World Parkinson Congress, University of Colorado Hospital, European Parkinson Disease Association, Highlands Ranch PD support group, Medtronic, my PD facebook page, Davis Phinney Foundation, Michael J. Fox Foundation, West Side Tremble Clefs and many more.

I think I can safely say that all this way more than good luck! I choose to think that God has given me the inspiration and tools to TRY to be a blessing to others. I intend to keep trying for a long time, with His help.

 

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Kirk Hall

Wassup with SPG

 

Just when I thought I was ready to begin to slow down a bit, my plans were derailed. But in a good way.

My involvement with the West Side Tremble Clefs PD singing group is taking center stage right now. We have a major fundraiser this Sunday (November 12) at the United Church in Sun City, AZ. Though my voice is not what it used to be, I am one of a number of folks singing solos. There are 60+ voices in the group in various stages of PD. Some still have outstanding voices. Some have regained or dramatically improved their voices due to participation in the group, which is led and inspired by Sun Joo Lee. I have been communicating with the founder of Tremble Clefs in San Diego, Karen Hesley, about organizational strategies they are pursuing. She has been very helpful and we plan to stay in touch.

The PD palliative care research study I have written about previously has finished the recruiting phase, about half of the participants have been interviewed, and analysis has begun. Linda and I are among the caregivers and PwPs who are participating in the analysis by reviewing transcripts of the interviews and providing feedback. Consistent with the rest of the project, we thought it would be important to provide patient/caregiver feedback. We plan to be involved in the balance of the study which should be finished some time in 2018.

I am once again a blogger partner for the upcoming World Parkinson Congress to be held in Kyoto, Japan in 2019. I spent a good deal of time in Japan when I was working in the consumer electronics industry back in the 80’s and early 90’s.

Linda and I continue to be members of the Parkinson Advocates in Research (PAIR) program which is now part of the new Parkinson Foundation organization. We have both participated extensively in clinical research studies.

We have also both been very involved with the Parkinson Association of the Rockies (PAR). One of the highlights of the year for them is their annual Vitality Walk fundraiser. Linda has been a member of the organizing committee for a number of years and two of our grandchildren participated this year as volunteers. We were honored to take part in the filming of a tribute video along with our two grandchildren. This enabled us to see a side of them we don’t often see.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have plenty of time to enjoy life and live in the moment. Actually, I think our involvement allows us to enjoy our “down time” even more!

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