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Jerri Smith - Rocking with Parkinson's

  • Jerri Smith of Minneapolis was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) in 2010 at age 52. She had to take a medical leave from her job as a veterinarian because PD symptoms prevented her from being able to perform the fine motor tasks and mental sharpness that she needed in her field of veterinary medicine. She was also constantly fatigued and experienced tremors in her left arm, weakness in her left leg, and pain in her knee and calf.

    With a desire to fight back against PD, Smith did some research and discovered the LSVT® BIG (mobility therapy) and LOUD (speech) program at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute - Mercy Hospital. She began therapy in the spring of 2013.

    According to Smith's therapists, Beth Millage, PT, DPT, and Erin Vesey, PT, Smith was so motivated to improve her condition that she made tremendous gains in mobility, decreasing her stiffness and pain, and increasing her use of her left arm. She also learned to talk louder and with better articulation, so she gained confidence in speaking.

    Smith inspired other patients in the therapy gym, as they noticed her hard work. She made a point of telling the other patients how much the exercises helped to improve her mobility. After she finished four weeks of therapy (four days per week), Smith went on to participate in the community BIG and LOUD sessions that are offered twice monthly. She continues to share her story with her fellow patients and pushes them to give their full effort. She was even nominated "patient of the month."

    Recently, Smith participated in an exercise video for PWR! (Parkinson Wellness Recovery) that won a cash prize to be donated to the Minnesota chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. She continues to be an advocate for the BIG and LOUD program and has been able to return to playing the piano because of decrease in tension in her hand. She is truly a role model for others who live with a progressive disease like PD, in showing how hard work and positive attitude have enabled her to accomplish her goals and enjoy life.

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