Congratulations to David Kaplan, Recipient of the 2012 Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award

David Kaplan is a retired rabbi from Pike Creek, an area located between Wilmington and Newark, DE. In 2006 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. As with many who suffer from Parkinson’s disease (PD), David travelled a long road between symptoms and diagnosis.  His symptoms became obvious to his wife in 2003. She noticed a change in his posture, difficulty sleeping, and slowness in his speech and movement. There was also a change in his demeanor and he was angry or sad most of the time. These symptoms continued and in 2004, she went to the family doctor with her concerns.

The doctor sent David for a sleep study resulting in a diagnosis of restless leg syndrome. With medication he began to sleep better. However his congregation began wondering what was wrong with him. He seemed to be constantly exhausted and no longer socialized with them after services.  At this point, David was sent to a neurologist, who ruled out other problems until his diagnosis of Parkinson’s in June, 2006.

It was a long process finding the right medications and proper dosages. David became discouraged by the side effects he experienced until he found the right combination. Once he was diagnosed, he realized the fear that lay ahead for him.

David was asked to participate in a clinical study being conducted by a nurse in a doctoral program who had expertise in Parkinson’s disease. She gave David a book of exercises and stretching. The study included questions about attitude and emotions. These questions helped David to see that life was not over and there was no reason to just give up. He learned that attitude is an important part of his treatment. He continued to participate in a number of clinical studies which made him feel that he was helping himself and others.

In the summer of 2009, David was encouraged to apply to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. for the Clinical Research Learning Institute (CRLI).  He was accepted and began to learn about the process that a clinical trial takes. More importantly, he spent three days with other people who had PD and discovered the benefits of talking to others who had this disease. David decided he needed a support group and had a new -found enthusiasm for becoming part of the Parkinson’s community.

David began searching the Internet for local PD resources and found nothing. With the help of his nurse friend, he did find a few resources. Together, in January, 2010, they gathered leaders from several Parkinson’s support groups and healthcare professionals to form the Delmarva Parkinson’s Alliance. It continues to grow and includes more support group leaders and an increasing number of people from the healthcare, medical, and scientific communities.

Raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease became important to David. He began attending community events and health fairs and became increasingly involved in the PD community.

Although there were Parkinson’s support groups in Dover, Rehoboth, and Wilmington, there was no group in Newark, Delaware. David began to search for a place to meet and in October, 2010, the first meeting of Moving Ahead with Parkinson’s became a reality. The first meeting consisted of two people but each month the number of participants grows.  MAP is a monthly forum for people affected by PD and their significant others. It provides an opportunity for people living with Parkinson’s to share their emotions and their experience of living with the realities of this disease.   He is now in the process of starting MAP meetings at several other locations.

David joined “People Living With Parkinson’s” (PLWP) in October, 2010.  PLWP, an international non-profit organization created in 1999, maintains a website and currently has over 2000 members.  The organization focuses on quality of life issues and provides support to those suffering from Parkinson’s, their families and friends. David benefits from PLWP and has become a valuable resource, offering support and information to PLWP members. He brings new topics and relevant information which promote great discussion and learning.
Most recently, David began working with an undergraduate student in the Health Sciences department at the University of Delaware. The project involved the development of a program to help David retrain his brain. First David started with verbal cues to himself, advancing to thought cues. He has regained much of his balance, usually speaks more clearly and more loudly, can roll over in bed, and get out of a booth or a car more easily.

David continues to grow. He helps himself by using such programs as Yes U Can™” whose goal is to create activities for those with limited mobility and disabilities. Telling his own story is a part of David’s therapy.  Helping others has become an important mission for him. Using the Internet and his interpersonal skills, he reaches out to help others in need. David believes that learning ways to cope with PD helps people living with Parkinson’s regain some control of their lives.

David demonstrates many of the qualities exemplified by Humanitarian, Alan Bonander. Alan was a pioneer who also utilized the Internet for knowledge and promoted PD awareness via message boards or any other means available to him.  Like Alan, David is a man devoted to sharing what he learns with others.