The complexity associated with decision making for difficult diseases that continuously change like PD is a challenge to learn, recall, and building parameters associated with the risk and benefits of trial participation versus approved treatment options prove to be very difficult tasks for many providers. As a result, the patient does not always learn about or participate in trials that may advance medicine and provide direct benefit. A very similar problem is associated with approved medications at large because the number of available options continues to increase as the time doctors are allowed to spend with each patient dwindles as providers are regulated by employers to limit visit time and maximize billable events.
New and less established medications are often appropriate for patients but not prescribed and patients are unaware that the treatment plan they receive is sub-par. Hundreds of thousands of Parkinson’s patients across the US could live a higher quality of life if they were on an optimal treatment plan.
It was 1985 and Greg Hatstat was an active, athletic 32-year-old when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As the disease progressed, he would often gaze at Longs Peak and wish he could climb it. He tried three times, and with each attempt, foul weather or a physical limitation would interfere. He finally gave up. Then in 1999, Hatstat became one of the first Parkinson’s disease patients to receive Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) under the care of Dr. Rajeev Kumar the Medical Director of Parkinson’s Community. DBS is not a cure, but it can help control the symptoms. So much so that at the age of 59, with a 27-year history of Parkinson’s disease under his belt, the Colorado resident decided to give climbing one more try. This time, his team of coaches and helpers included his doctor.
“Dr. Kumar has been so supportive of me reaching this dream that he even said he would climb it with me,” Hatstat explains. Mt. Harvard, near Buena Vista, is a very difficult climb. It’s the third-highest peak in Colorado and the fourth-highest in the contiguous United States, rising 4,400 feet in 6.5 miles to a summit of 14,433 feet.”
“Greg had some significant challenges,” Kumar admits. “He freezes when he walks, as if his feet are stuck to the floor, so hiking something of this magnitude was a significant risk. He took significant safety precautions, which was good. I was worried about him getting back down, but he was way ahead of the rest of us. Walking with poles helped with his freezing, his gait rhythm, and kept him from falling. We also had a rope around him during the most difficult parts of the climb. He did really well, and the whole experience was really inspiring.” In addition to Kumar, Hatstat’s fellow climbers were his 20-year-old son, Daniel; his longtime friend and hiking partner, Rick Thompson, a former Marine; two professional guides; and Ron Kubit, and Ryan Mazer the founder of Parkinson’s Community.
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