For 20 Years, Sandy & Jerry Wuest Answer the Call

Twenty years and more than a quarter of a million dollars: they are numbers that speak of perseverance, selflessness and zest. As the 20th annual Jerry Wuest-Pete Hershberger Dinner Gala & Golf Classic approaches, Aug. 7-8, we are inspired to step back and applaud this volunteer-driven fundraising effort that has raised $266,000 for Parkinson’s disease research at the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. If not a mission accomplished, it is a calling fulfilled.

“Our main goal in life is to help people with Parkinson’s disease and to raise money for Parkinson’s research at UC,” Jerry’s wife, Sandy Wuest, says.

Funds raised by the Wuest-Hershberger Dinner Gala & Golf Classic have supported multiple research projects, including The Parkinson’s Disease Exercise Initiative, a developing program and study of the effect of strength and balance training on balance and cognitive impairments in people with Parkinson’s disease. The initiative, led by Brian Terpstra, PhD, is being conducted in collaboration with the Downtown YMCA.

Wuest-Hershberger funds are also helping researchers study 1) the correlation of balance and the perception of postural imbalance with the position of electrodes in patients undergoing deep brain stimulation and 2) the effect of low- versus high-frequency deep brain stimulation on freezing of gait.

Gina Weitzel, Senior Director of Development for the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, thanks the Wuests for “providing tremendous support to our program, in both dollars and visibility.”

In 2010, Sandy and Jerry Wuest (below, with cyclist Davis Phinney in photo by Gordon Baer) were honored with the Sunflower Victory Award at the annual Sunflower Revolution Symposium & Expo.

Kim Seroogy, PhD, a Parkinson’s researcher at the Gardner Center and Director of the Selma Schottenstein Harris Laboratory for Research in Parkinson’s, says he admires the Wuests “as friends, as benefactors, and particularly as role models of how to face adversity with courage, determination and humor.”

Maureen Gartner, RN, M.Ed, Research Coordinator for the Gardner Center and Information and Referral Nurse for the Tri-State Parkinson’s Wellness Chapter, praises the Wuests’ unity in rallying against a chronic disease. “When Jerry was very sick two years ago, their daughters were with Sandy and Jerry around the clock,” Maureen recalls. “You could see the love and care that unites them as a family. As a caregiver, Sandy continues to find strength to watch out for Jerry and advocate for his health. She treats him with the utmost care and respect; you can tell they are each other’s best friends.”

Looking back, and with the knowledge she has now, Sandy Wuest believes Jerry is in his 32nd year with Parkinson’s. “He was in his early 40s when we first noticed,” Sandy says. “Then it was two to three years before we got a diagnosis, because at that time people didn’t know Parkinson’s that well. After going to two private neurologists, our son-in-law put us on to Department of Neurology at UC. Since then, everything has been handled well. I can’t say enough about the UC neurology department.”

In the late 1990s Jerry underwent a surgical procedure called a pallidotomy. Deep brain stimulation was not yet available, and the pallidotomy, performed on one side, yielded “good results,” Sandy says. (During a pallidotomy, seldom performed today, a neurosurgeon uses a heat probe to destroy the globus pallidus, a region of the brain involved with the control of movement.) Jerry is now a patient of Fredy J. Revilla, MD, Director of the Gardner Center.

The Wuests joined a support group founded by Jeanie Bender-Dragoo, RN, a nurse who worked with Frederick Samaha, MD, a UC neurologist who is now retired. When in 1991 the American Parkinson Disease Association asked Ms. Bender to organize a walk, she opted instead for a golf outing, because Jerry Wuest loved golf. She ran the event for two years, then turned it over to the Wuests when she and her husband moved to Michigan.

In 1997, the Wuests established a new non-profit organization, the Parkinson’s Disease Support Network of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana (PDSNOKI), to raise money for UC and a handful of wellness organizations. “We give the majority of funds to UC for Parkinson’s research,” Sandy says, “but we also pay therapists to run four exercise groups in the area, and we fund a support group for Parkinson’s at Dearborn County Hospital.”

Over the years the Wuest Golf Classic added a dinner and auction, which are overseen by Diana Peters, to accommodate people with Parkinson’s disease who couldn’t, or didn’t, play golf. And its name lengthened with the addition of Pete Hershberger, whose father, the late Donn Hershberger, had Parkinson’s.

“We knew Donn from support groups,” Sandy says. “He was such a fighter, such a wonderful man. His son, Pete, played in the golf outing. Then Pete was diagnosed with Parkinson’s himself about four or five years ago. We invited Pete to rename the event the Wuest-Hershberger golf outing. We were also thinking that if it got to the point where we couldn’t handle it, he could carry it forward.”

Pete has undergone deep brain stimulation surgery, says George Mandybur, MD, a Gardner Center and Mayfield Clinic neurosurgeon, and is doing well.

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It’s not too late to support the 20th anniversary event. Additional sponsors, golfers and auction items are welcomed. If you’d like to attend or contribute, please call (513) 451-1750 or send an e-mail to dianaqk@fuse.net.

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