Cary woman finds help husband's young onset Parkinson’s disease through Facebook group

Jenny and Tim Paholke pose for a picture with their three kids.
Jenny and Tim Paholke pose for a picture with their three kids.

When Jenny Paholke’s husband, Tim, went to the doctor’s office in 2016, they both were expecting a normal checkup. But the nurse practitioner who was working with Tim Paholke noticed his voice was slurred and a little bit weak.

“She had thought that he had a stroke,” the Cary woman said. 

The nurse practitioner sent him to the hospital to get an MRI on his brain, but nothing came of it. They spent the next year going to different neurologists and getting other tests done, but they just couldn’t figure it out.

It later turned out that Tim, then 44, had young onset Parkinson’s disease, which means the diagnosis came before age 50, even though at one point Parkinson’s was ruled out by a test, Jenny said.

At a standstill, Jenny reached out on a local Facebook group for Cary residents and asked if anyone had a good recommendation for neurology care.

Someone suggested Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

When the couple visited, the doctors knew “pretty much within 15 minutes” that Tim had Parkinson’s, Jenny said. 

“We both cried a little bit,” Jenny said. “We didn’t know much at the time about Parkinson’s disease. The only thing I had ever heard about it was from what happened with Michael J. Fox.”

Although she was nervous, Jenny got to work, joining Facebook pages for Parkinson’s patients and caregivers and doing her own research. 

“We started getting my husband to exercise a lot because that’s a big thing for Parkinson’s patients,” she said. “They need to keep their bodies moving. And we just kind of went from there. He started on medication, exercise.”

Learning more about Parkinson’s really helped put things into perspective for the Paholkes and their family. 

Now, Jenny said she’s really looking forward to learning more at 10:30 a.m. Saturday during Moving Day Chicago’s virtual event and meeting more people going through the same thing.

It will be the couple’s first year attending. 

Normally, the event would be at Soldier Field. But this year it will be held via Facebook Live, hosted by Patrick Fazio of NBC 5 Chicago and featuring other special guests. The event is being held virtually because of COVID-19.

“Hopefully, next year we can go in person, but now we’ll just have to meet them online,” Jenny said. 

During the virtual event, instructors will lead exercises proven to help manage Parkinson’s symptoms.  

“I just think that the more people you can have on your side the better,” Jenny said. “We’re in this together.”  

Jenny said things are not as scary now that Tim is in physical therapy programs. He recently stopped working at his job managing a Corner Bakery Cafe, which Jenny said has helped his body relax.

Tim’s biological children, who are Jenny’s stepchildren, also have been a blessing, she said, as they are very supportive of their father. 

“For the most part, he’s doing well. We’re coping,” Jenny said. “We’ve got great support from our family and friends.”   

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