It all started when one of Wendall “Windy” Woodall’s college-age daughters noticed that he was shuffling his feet when he walked.
“Why are you walking like an old man?” she asked.
At first Woodall was offended. “I thought she was rude,” he said.
But later he and his wife realized their daughter noticed something they had missed. After consulting several doctors, Woodall was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. He was only 49.
“That was the beginning of a new reality for us,” said Woodall, now 52, an Assemblies of God minister who works at the nondenominational United Faith Christian Academy in south Charlotte.
Woodall tells the story of the first 1,000 days after his diagnosis in a memoir, “Shuffle: A Way Forward, Whatever the Challenge,” published last year.
He and other doctors had missed multiple signs, but a Charlotte movement disorders specialist “put it all together,” Woodall said. He was also experiencing sleep apnea, “when the brain forgets to tell the body to breathe,” Woodall said. His handwriting had worsened, and he had also lost his sense of smell. He also had moments of “freezing,” when his body would lock up and he couldn’t move for a brief time.
Today, those symptoms continue, and Woodall takes several pills a day to slow their progression. He also stays active, continuing to work and exercise.
At the end of April, he’s planning to have brain surgery – called deep brain stimulation – which has been shown to improve some of the most common, debilitating motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremor, rigidity and stiffness. The surgeon will implant a battery-operated pulse generator, similar to a heart pacemaker, to deliver electrical stimulation to areas in the brain that control movement.
Woodall started a support group of Parkinson’s patients and caregivers at the Siskey YMCA and continues to speak to many others. His message: “Stay active and get busy and focus on helping others so you’re not in the pity party of self.”
Want to go?
▪ April 18, Move-It! Awareness Walk, www.parkinsonassociation.org/celebrate-it-living-well-with-parkinsons-disease