Services at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix  

Banner Neuro Wellness Story

Sheila Fitzgerald  

Sheila Fitzgerald is the key benefactor for Banner Neuro Wellness. Here's her story in her own words, dealing with Parkinson's disease and how it changed her outlook in life and motivated her and her family to launch Banner Neuro Wellness.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s  disease  (PD) in 1993.  I had just given birth to our third child, a baby girl. It had been a difficult year, full of exaggerated stress. 

Our longtime friend had died and I had spent my last trimester in bed.   Instead of celebrating a less stressful life, we now had to deal with the PD diagnosis. 

The physician who diagnosed me with Parkinson’s was in a rush that day years ago. My head spun with questions I was afraid to ask. I had no idea what having PD meant to me or my family. I kept thinking this man had just pronounced my death.  

Also Read: Parkinson's patients get needed lift at Gilbert wellness center

When I was finally able to ask how long I had to live, he laughed. I was frightened and incensed. That neurologist laughed at my fear, handed me a brochure titled “Transferring  Your Assets Before Entering A Home,” and handed me a prescription.

I quickly found there was not a large variety of medication or easily found information about this disease. I spent the following year trying to wrap my mind around my diagnosis and wondering about my impending death. I felt like I was caught in a pitch black tunnel, groping along, looking for a light of some sort at the end of this tunnel, even a dim one. 

Unfortunately, along the way, I apparently withdrew from my family.  I was completely unaware. I tried to stay at home as much as our children’s schedule allowed. I did not want to embarrass my family by my lack of fluid movement, or falling.

Eventually, my husband and my son confronted me, requesting my attention, and that I join the family again. It took some hard work and time, but I like to think I was able to adjust. By this time I had stumbled across a qualified and intelligent Parkinson’s Disease Movement Disorder Neurologist who assisted me through the next eight years. 

My PD progressed anyway. I ran everywhere I went, shook violently on my right side, and could not sit in a chair without sliding off, among my many other symptoms. I was told the time had arrived for me to consider having  Deep Brain Stimulation surgery (DBS).  This was a new surgery at the time and required me to be awake.  It seemed so invasive, but I did it anyway. 

That night after surgery I sat up in a chair for the first time in years. I was living a miracle. I watched  the sunrise with tears streaming down my face, praying I would not fall out of that chair. I haven’t yet!

It is because of our experiences that our family has chosen to start Banner Neuro Wellness center. We wish for every Parkinson’s disease survivor to have an easier time getting information about this disease and its medications. The socialization appears to be as important as the medications themselves. You do not have to challenge this complicated disease alone.

The Banner Neuro  Wellness Center is available to everyone. Come see us. We can help you!

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Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix
1111 E. McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 839-2000
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