The Rev. Jesse Jackson: I’ll need your prayers on my Parkinson’s disease

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the famous American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, recently went public on his battle with Parkinson’s disease and called on friends to offer their prayers for his well-being.

The 76-year-old Democrat was a former presidential candidate with nominations for the 1984 and 1988 campaigns. He also served as a shadow senator for the District of Columbia (1991 to 1997).

A letter from Northwestern Medicine, included with Jackson’s statement, reveals a diagnosis in 2015 confirmed Jackson’s current health scare.

The South Carolina-born statesman said his family and friends noticed changes in his health three years ago, and adds that he no longer wishes to keep it a secret.

Rev. Jesse Jackson in Dtroit

Image shows Reve. Jesse Jackson in Detroit

Jackson has been an outpatient for almost three years but says he will now subject himself to physical therapy and hope it slows down the progress of the disease.

“For some time now, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor,” Jackson said in the statement released by his Rainbow PUSH Coalition, a non-profit organization he founded. “But as my daily physical struggles has become unbearable, I don’t want to ignore the symptoms any longer, so I acquiesced.”

Parkinson’s disease isn’t a white man’s disease; anyone – black or white –  can have it. Our legendary heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali was diagnosed of the disease in 1984 when he was only 42.

Jackson confirmed his doctors conducted series of tests to arrive at a conclusion that he is suffering Parkinson’s, a disease his father also battled.

He said the diagnosis was very difficult, and vowed to use his voice to help others by finding a cause for the ailment.

“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful; it is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression,” he wrote.

“I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it…”

Mr. Jackson was born in Greenville, SC. He was a confidante and associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and wielded strong influence on international matters in the 80s and 90s.

Remarkably, some of his achievements in international politics was his travel to Syria in 1983, when he secured the release of a captured American pilot, Navy Lt. Robert Goodman, who was being held by the Syrian government.

Goodman was on a mission to bomb Syria when he was shot down over Lebanon. A personal discussion with the Syrian President Hafez al-Assad led to Goodman’s release.

Although the Reagan administration was skeptical about Jackson’s trip to Syria, he was offered a presidential welcome after the successful job and United States President Ronald Reagan appreciatively invited him and Goodman to the White House on January 4, 1984.

In June, 1984, Mr. Jackson earned an invitation from then-Cuban president Fidel Castro. After their discussions, he secured a release of 22 Americans held in Cuba

His contributions were also felt on the eve of the 1991 Persian Gulf War when he traveled to Iraq and pleaded with Saddam Hussein for the release of foreign nationals held there as a “human shield.” A total of 20 Americans and some British citizens were released.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.


So, what is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease affects the way you move, and happens when there is a problem with certain nerve cells in the brain. Parkinson’s Disease is a rare and curious phenomenon, affecting approximately 1 in 300 people; usually  between the ages of 50 and 65. It is slightly more common in men than in women.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system that affects predominately dopamine-producing nerve cells in a specific area of the brain. Normally, these nerve cells make an important chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. It lets your muscles move smoothly and do what you want them to do. When you have Parkinson’s, these nerve cells break down. Then you no longer have enough dopamine, and you have trouble moving the way you want to.

Parkinson’s gets worse over time. But usually this happens slowly, over many years. And there are good treatments that can help you live a full life.

In Parkinson’s disease, race matters. African-Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s; they are more likely to have delays in diagnosis and; once diagnosed, are undertreated when compared with White patients. This translates to worse outcomes, including higher mortality.

In addition, African-Americans with Parkinson’s suffer greater disability and more severe cases of the disease than Whites. Why? They often ignore the symptoms.

In a study at the University of Maryland, researchers found that, while Blacks may be less likely to develop Parkinson’s, they are more likely to be undiagnosed with the disease. Many of the symptoms may be brushed off as just signs of old age, leading to treatment delays among Black patients. There is a critical need for African- Americans to pay more attention to symptoms that may be associated with Parkinson’s, such as these 5:

1.Slurring speech – one common sign of Parkinson’s is the inability to speak clearly, even slurring one’s speech.

2.Trembling hands and fingers – even when the hands and fingers are not in action, trembling may occur.

3.Muscle stiffness and pain – these symptoms often lead to patients having difficulty with everyday tasks like getting out of bed in the morning.

4.Dry skin – this is also one of the signs of Parkinson’s, including dry, rough skin and dandruff.

5.Loss of facial and body gestures – patients often lose their ability to show emotions like smiling, blinking and moving their hands and arms to gesture.

Although a primary cause for Parkinson’s disease is yet to be identified, a number of risk factors are clearly evident.

Advancing age– Although there is the occasional case of the disease being developed as a young adult, it generally manifests itself in the middle to late years of life. The risk continues to increase the older one gets.

Sex- Males are more likely to get Parkinson’s than females. Possible reasons for this may be that males have greater exposure to other risk factors such as toxin exposure or head trauma.

Family history– Having one or more close relatives with the disease increases the likelihood that you will get it, but to a minimal degree. This lends support to the idea that there is a genetic link in developing Parkinson’s.

Agricultural work– Exposure to an environmental toxin such as a pesticide or herbicide puts you at greater risk. Some of these toxins inhibit dopamine production and promote free radical damage. Those involved in farming and are therefore exposed to such toxins have a greater prevalence of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Genetic factors– Studies showed that individuals with a more active gene (alpha-synuclein) had a 1.5 times greater risk of developing Parkinson’s.

Low levels of B vitamin folate– Researchers discovered that mice with a deficiency of this vitamin developed severe Parkinson’s symptoms, while those with normal levels did not.

Head Trauma– Recent research points to a link between damage to the head, neck, or upper cervical spine and Parkinson’s. Some patients remembered a specific incident, others did not. In some cases, Parkinson’s symptoms took decades to appear.

If you develop a tremor, urgent medical care isn’t needed if you have had a tremor-shaking or trembling-for some time. But you should discuss the tremor at your next doctor’s appointment. If a tremor is affecting your daily activities or if it is a new symptom, see your doctor sooner.

Source: The Wilmington Journal