Sunflower Symposium Celebrates 10 Years of Education & Hope

Scott Layman and his wife, Joy, with Nurse Practitioner Maureen Gartner, MSN, NP-C, at the UC Medical Center. Photo by Cindy Starr.

Since its establishment in 2005, the Sunflower Revolution Symposium & Expo has provided education and inspiration to more than 4,000 patients, family members and caregivers affected by Parkinson’s disease. One of them is Scott Layman, an architect from Ft. Thomas, Ky., who first learned about deep brain stimulation surgery during the annual educational event presented by the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders.

Scott learned about how the implantation of tiny electrodes deep within the brain can counteract faulty brain signals and improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremor, stiffness and the wiggly movements called dyskinesias. Scott then asked George Mandybur, MD, a neurosurgeon at Gardner Center, about whether he might be a candidate for the procedure. Scott did not have tremor, but he did have stiffness and what he called his “signature hitch” in his right leg.

Scott learned that he was a candidate for deep brain stimulation (DBS), and last December he underwent surgery at the UC Medical Center. When he attends tomorrow’s Symposium & Expo at the Oasis Conference Center in Loveland, Ohio, he will look like a new man.

“The surgery worked, probably better than I thought it would,” Scott wrote in a letter to friends and supporters earlier this year. “With ongoing help from Maureen Gartner on the DBS programming, I have gotten my life back. I am forever indebted to the great neurosurgeons, nurses and nurse practitioners, and neurologists … and of course to God, for the amazing changes that have happened to me.”

Saturday’s free Symposium & Expo is the 10th annual event, and a record 761 patients, family members and caregivers have signed up. Registration has ended, but walk-ins will be welcomed.

The symposium will cover numerous topics, including common misperceptions about the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, advancements in deep brain stimulation therapy, and nutritional approaches to enhancing brain energy and memory. Becky Farley, PT, MS, PhD, founder of Parkinson Wellness Recovery/PWR! Moves, will speak about exercise essentials, and former Tour de France stage-winner Davis Phinney will offer inspiring remarks about making “every victory count” each day. The annual Victory Award will be presented to a special person who empowers and gives hope to others who have Parkinson’s disease.

This year’s Symposium honors the memory of Jim Gardner, whose vision and support established the Gardner Center. In 2007 the Gardner family made a landmark gift to advance research and treatment programs in Parkinson’s disease at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, and the center was renamed in their honor. Mr. Gardner, a civic-minded leader and an exemplary and loving caregiver to his wife, Joan, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, died in November 2013 after a short illness.

2013 Sunflower Bike Ride photo by Mark Bowen.

The 2014 unflower Walk/Ride/Run, which began as a bike ride in 2004, will take place on Sunday, Oct. 7. More than 500 participants had raised more than $100,000 as of Friday morning. The event, which begins at Yeatman’s Cove at Sawyer Point, includes a 5k chip-timed run, a 5k walk, and bike rides of 25, 40 and 100k. A celebration follows, with awards, live music and food.

The Sunflower Revolution was named and founded by Kathleen Krumme, a Cincinnati cyclist and bicycle shop manager whose father, the late Donald Krumme, suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The sunflower is a ubiquitous sight at the Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycling event, and it is a symbol of hope. Those who support the Sunflower events are helping fuel research that will lead to a revolution in the care of people with Parkinson’s disease.

— Cindy Starr

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