Healthy Living

His Need for Speed Keeps Scott Roehm From Giving into Parkinson’s Disease

Scott Rohm has a unique therapy for his Parkinson's symptoms. Hunting, fishing, and... racing.

His Need for Speed Keeps Scott Roehm From Giving into Parkinson’s Disease

Scott Rohm has a unique therapy for his Parkinson’s Disease symptoms. His legs tremble, but this 56-year-old Millcreek Township gentleman doesn’t let his Parkinson’s disease get him down. He still drives his Corvette up to 168 miles an hour, racing a Mustang on the road.

“I call it his therapy,” said Roehm’s wife, Tammy.

Roehm has hobbies that range from hunting, with a gun and a crossbow, to driving his Corvette faster than any other car on the road. He has no plans to give up any of his hobbies, even with Parkinson’s disease. He can still hunt with the best hunters. During the 2016-17 hunting season, Scott Rohm earned a Triple Trophy badge from the Pennsylvania game Commission by killing a bear, a buck, and a turkey.

Hunting is one of his therapies, and he uses both a crossbow and gun so that he can hunt in the woods nonstop from late September until early spring.

“The most difficult part is walking through the woods,” Roehm said. “I don’t want to trip and fall. It’s also harder to put up my tree stand.”

Scott Rohm also loves to fish. He is thinking about retiring early to spend time fishing with his daughters, Christie, and Natasha and his six grandchildren. It’s difficult for Roehm to tie his fishing tackle, but he still fishes on Lake Erie. His best fishing experience was just last summer when he caught 200 walleyes.

His daughters know that keeping active with hunting, fishing, and driving helps him deal with his Parkinson’s disease.

Another hobby that this remarkable man enjoys? Restoring cars and especially the Corvettes he prizes. He has plans to restore a Corvette he damaged in a June 2015 accident that broke his ankle and fractured his pelvis.

That fall, he went hunting even when his doctors forbade him from going into the woods, but Scott Roehm would not be denied. He just took antibiotics and off he went.

 “When I was diagnosed, I said I was just going to deal with it,” Roehm said. “It hasn’t been that bad until the last year or so. I got a little depressed, and that’s why I went fishing more. Fishing and hunting make me feel great, like driving a car does.”

Scott Roehm’s battle with Parkinson's started in 2010

Roehm’s Parkinson’s symptoms first appeared in 2010. He has since undergone deep brain stimulation, a procedure he experienced at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital. Roehm feels that this procedure keeps him going so he can hunt, fish, restore cars and work as a mechanic and service manager.

Before his deep brain stimulation in 2014, Schott Roehm was shaking so severely that he would hold his left hand when he walked. A shaking hand was not tolerable for Scott, so he had deep brain stimulation, which allowed doctors to implant electrodes in the damaged regions of his brain. These electrodesproduced electrical impulses to regulate the abnormal impulses caused by Parkinson’s disease.

The procedure worked at reducing the tremors in Scott’s hands, but it doesn’t seem to work on his muscle stiffness. Roehm knows that his time is limited. He tells his co-workers and family that he is thinking of retiring next year. Although he will retire soon, he has no plans to give up hunting, fishing and driving fast cars.

Parkinson's slowly takes away your motor skills

Parkinson’s or PD is a neurodegenerative syndrome that takes away your motor skills and balance. It breaks down the dopamine-producing neurons in the part of the brain called substantia nigra.

Symptoms develop slowly over the years, and the progression of symptoms is different from one person to another. The disease is very diverse.

Watch for symptoms of tremor, mainly at rest and in your hands. You can also have bradykinesia, limb rigidly, gait and balance problems.

Currently, there is no known cure, although there is an abundance of research taking place due to celebrities and others experiencing the disease.

Treatment options vary and may include medications, surgery, and deep brain stimulation. Parkinson’s’ is not fatal, but its complications are serious, and they may be life-threatening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC rates complications from Parkinson’s disease as the 14th cause of death in the United States.

You can live well with Parkinson’s

To get a handle on what you are dealing with after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, you first must understand the disease and its progression. You also need to work with your doctor and follow the recommended therapies. Symptoms can be treated using dopaminergic medications to help replace the low or missing dopamine in the brain.

 Low or missing dopamine happens due to impairment of neurons in the substantia nigra located in the midbrain. Scientists say that the midbrain is the smallest part of the brain and it regulates the auditory, visual, and motor functions of your body.

To make matters even more complicated, those with PD experience memory loss and cognitive symptoms later in the progression of the disease since a significant of the substantia nigra neurons are lost. Lewy bodies or accumulations of abnormal alpha-synuclein then begin to form in the substantia nigra neurons of those who have Parkinson’s. None of this sounds pleasant, and it isn’t.

Scientists are trying to find ways to identify biomarkers for Parkinson’s that will lead to an earlier diagnosis, so treatments can be tailored to slow down the disease process. Currently, medications and therapies used for PD do improve symptoms, but they don’t slow the progression of the disease.

 Motor skills are affected, and like Scott Roehm, this affects lifelong passions. However, there is more to Parkinson’s symptoms than just movement. Non-motor symptoms can be more impacted by signs of apathy, constipation, depression, loss of sense of smell, cognitive impairment, and high anxiety.

Treatment is a mix of medications and lifestyle changes. Surgery is also an option.

There is no one treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Procedures are designed for each person with the disease and based on their signs and symptoms.

Treatment can include medication and surgical therapy. Other therapies include lifestyle modifications. Doctors urge you to get more rest and exercise.

Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS helps regulate tremors

Like Scott Roehm who was treated with deep brain stimulation, the procedure helps with the tremors, but it will not take away the stiffness or trouble with balance. 

Some patients have had success and relief by using DBS and Parkinson’s medications.  DBS isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s, and it won’t stop Parkinson’s from progressing, but it may be an option if you have had the disease for at least five years and medications aren’t enough.

Other treatments for Parkinson’s? A non-invasive surgery

Some people prefer not to undergo deep brain stimulation surgery to alleviate some of their Parkinson’s tremors. Those who take anti-coagulant drugs or blood thinners cannot go without their medications for even a short time. For these patients, a non-invasive surgical approach like gamma knife surgery may work.

A gamma knife is not a sharp knife; it is a machine that produces hundreds of very focused gamma radiation beams. The gamma knife gives precise and concentrated treatments for specific diseases including Parkinson’s. The doctor can target the diseased area of the brain while sparing the healthy tissues surrounding the damaged part.

The gamma knife takes a highly skilled team, and it is performed under local anesthesia. However, gamma knife treatment is only considered when a person is not able to get relief from medication and deep brain stimulation. Discuss important issues when considering gamma knife treatment. Consult with a specially trained neurologist and a radiation oncology expert before the procedure is considered.

When everything about Parkinson’s disease is considered, perhaps Scott Roehm has the right idea. Live life to the fullest,do the things you love, and don’t let Parkinson’s get you down.