What I Learned from My Dad's Christmas Party

Dad with Kathy, Marge, and Connie

Last night, I attended my dad's Christmas party with his Parkinson's therapy group. Just a little background: my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's about 2 and a half years ago and moved to assisted living after a major decline in his independent functions about a year and a half ago. We were blessed to find a neurologist, Dr. Hale, in this small town that was very knowledgeable about Parkinson's Disease. He referred us to a therapist who specialized in Parkinson's patients. It took my dad a little while to agree, because he just wanted to go to therapists that he knew...but with time, he decided to try it out.

It didn't take us long to realize that Parkinson's therapy is MUCH different than normal outpatient physical therapy, and that this specialized therapist, Marge, was truly a gift from God. After a year and a half of therapy, my dad who was falling multiple times daily, couldn't drive any longer, forgot to eat, didn't take medications timely or correctly, and could barely pull himself up from a chair - is now functioning independently and is even driving again. Marge at Redmond Outpatient Therapy and the Renaissance Marquis assisted living have truly changed his life. This combination of people and services have increased his quality of life significantly, and given me more special memories with my dad.

Fast forward to last week. When dad asked me if I wanted to attend his Christmas party with him, of course I said yes! Then he told me the day of the event that it was scheduled from 6 to 9:30! WHAT? What on earth could we be doing for THAT long. I have so much to do...I don't even have my Christmas tree up yet and it's December the 12th! Even though the anxiety of all the things I could get done in an entire evening washed over me, I knew there was not a chance I was backing out. So my husband and I got ready, picked up my dad and headed to the event.

I saw so many stages of Parkinson's last night. From the younger gentleman who completed a motorcycle cross country trip of 13,000 miles only two years ago, to the man who walked by my dad and stared, with the Parkinson's expressionless "mask" face, who knew my dad, but his muscles didn't cooperate to even say hello.

But what happened at the Christmas party last night, gave me some valuable learning experiences that I couldn't help but share with you.

First Observation - The Leader: This therapy is offered through Redmond outpatient therapy. Last night, the CEO of Redmond, John Quinlivan, came to the event with his beautiful wife. That was a statement within itself. Out of ALL of the lines of care that this hospital offers, during the busiest time of the year, he took an entire evening (remember the 3.5 hours?!) to spend with Parkinson's patients.

He walked in, went to every table, patted us all on the back, shook hands, and thanked each and every person individually for coming. Then he spoke for a brief moment. He was real, he was authentic, he showed emotion. Throughout the party, he was there as if he was just a family member in attendance for a parent with Parkinson's.

At the end, we played a game which involved handing out 100 gifts to each person in attendance. The therapists who coordinated didn't request help, but he got up and handed out presents too. So did his wife. When the 3.5 hour party was over with (YES, it really lasted that long), he didn't rush out. He stayed and he spoke to patients and families for quite a bit longer.

My husband and I looked at each other multiple times throughout the evening, in awe of the servant leadership that the Mr. Quinlivan displayed. In awe of the authenticity he demonstrated, the realness that was present in his demeanor and interaction with others. It wasn't a dog and pony show for him. He didn't use it as an opportunity to "brag" on how great Redmond is for having this program. He was just there. Just like me.