Sunday , April 15, 2018 - 5:00 AM
Woodworking has always been a huge part of 73-year-old Craig Tatton’s life, but after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it’s what kept him going.
Just over eight years ago, Tatton, a husband and father of two, was a practicing social worker. Part of his job was to write notes about his sessions with patients, and he started to notice that his handwriting was becoming really small and not as legible as it once was, a possible sign of Parkinson’s disease.
He also started having a hard time walking; it was almost as if his leg was stuck to the floor and when he would move, it would just drag — another sign of Parkinson’s disease.
The Centerville resident had been in the social work field most of his life and was clearly aware of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease; yet in the beginning, he was in denial that it could be happening to him.
It eventually got to the point where he had no choice but to see a doctor, and in February 2010, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Tatton is one of a number of patients who have received treatment at Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital for Parkinson’s disease. The hospital recently became the first in Utah — and is one of less than 20 in the nation — to be certified by The Joint Commission for Parkinson’s disease rehabilitation. Certification is voluntary and given after a rigorous on-site review of the hospital’s practices, programs and outcomes in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
According to Dr. Reuben Jessop, the chief operating officer at NURH and an expert in the field of Parkinson’s disease, when a person has the disease, vital nerve cells in the brain — called neurons — malfunction and die. These dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that is critical for signals in the part of the brain that control the body’s movement and coordination.
The amount of dopamine decreases as Parkinson’s disease progresses, which causes increasing difficulty for an individual to control his or her body’s movements.
There are an estimated 5,000 people in Utah who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.
“We both knew what Parkinson’s is and what kind of disease it is,” said Craig Tatton’s wife, Carolee Tatton, who also worked in the medical field. “And we thought: ‘What does this mean for the future and what are we going to do?’”
Tatton began practicing what he had been teaching people throughout his career: If you don’t do it, you’ll lose it. If you don’t do it, you’re not going to get well and you’re going to lose what you got.
“He loved working on cars and this changed his mobility,” Carolee Tatton said.
So instead of working on cars, he chose to focus on woodwork and learned how to scroll work.
“It’s kept me going,” he said.
Patients with Parkinson’s disease often have tremors that prevent them from doing things with their hands, but Tatton calls it a blessing that he has none.
“Starting out it was one of the hardest things to do,” he said. “But I kept on doing it and have been doing it for years.”
Using his scroll working skills, he has created a sign that hangs on the wall in the Northern Utah Rehabilitation Hospital therapy room that reads, “Never give up, keep on trying, you will make it.”
Tatton has been a patient at NURH since July 2017. He spent 10 days as an inpatient and continues to go to outpatient therapy.
“It keeps him moving and gives him the tools that he can work on to keep as functional as he can for as long as he can,” his wife said. “We love the staff and what we really like about NURH is that it’s so focused on Parkinson’s.”
Every Parkinson’s patient is different and NURH was able to help Tatton with exactly what he needed to focus on.
“We take our responsibility to providing the highest quality of Parkinson’s disease rehabilitation to the community very seriously,” says CEO Ryan Keele. “We know that even though Parkinson’s disease has no known cure, research has shown that a combined focus on medication management and intensive rehabilitation can dramatically improve function and quality of life in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.”
Tatton and his family recently took a much-needed vacation to Hawaii, where they hiked many steps, relaxed and had a great time.
“I do not think that he would’ve had the energy or the ability to do that if he had not been going through therapy,” Carolee Tatton said.
For more information on NURH, call 801-475-5254 or visit NURH.ernesthealth.com.
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