Teri Vance: Brian Reedy lives full life with Parkinson’s

Brian Reedy and his wife, Lily

Brian Reedy and his wife, Lily

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One of the first people I remember meeting as a young reporter covering the education beat was Brian Reedy. He taught photography and video classes at Carson High School. But more than that, he taught his students about valuing each other’s diversity and having the strength to overcome hard times.

He was always invested in his students.

But then he was struck with the greatest hardship of his life. He began suffering with symptoms of early onset Parkinson’s disease in 2008 and was diagnosed in 2011, forcing him to retire in 2013.

We’ve loosely kept in touch with him over the years through social media, email and the occasional run-in at Nevada Day or at the grocery store.

We remedied that last week when Brian and his wife, Lily, invited my husband, Gary, and I over for dinner.

As it is with old friends, we fell into a quick and natural ease. It was good to get to know Lily better (as well as the three dogs), and catch up with Brian.

We talked a lot about his life after the diagnosis. When he had to retire because the disease made it hard to focus and he lost his ability to understand the technology, in a lot of ways he felt like his life was over.

Naturally, he fell into a depression.

But as his old life faded away, a new one began to emerge.

Where he lost his ability to understand technology, he’s started to learn how to build things.

In his backyard, he’s built a couple of outbuildings along with a chicken coop. Lily — who also retired from Carson High School as a librarian after a breast cancer diagnosis — calls it his shantytown.

She worries about his balance when he’s up on ladders, so he agrees to wear a bicycle helmet. She says when she sees him wearing it, she knows he loves her.

The two have become active proponents of their own health, working on physical therapy and in the Rock Steady boxing group.

But the bulk of their time — unsurprising if you know them — is spent on research and advocacy work.

“When you get out of yourself, you’re at your better self,” he said. “That’s our life force.”

Brian and his group CareLiving for All, will host two local events, one at Carson Tahoe Health on Monday and the other Tuesday at the University of Nevada School of Medicine. The guest speaker will be Lauren Paglisotti, Community Engagement Officer for the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research.

The Reedies will also join more than 300 other advocates in Washington, D.C., on March 19-21 to meet with their members of Congress to share their stories of the personal impact Parkinson’s disease has made on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Brian is particularly interested in reaching out to those in the community who have been diagnosed, but are reluctant to seek help.

He knows it can be scary. And denial can seem attractive.

But, he pointed out, the sooner people begin physical therapy and the more information they have, the more they can abate the symptoms.

“They’re hearing the diagnosis, and they think it’s a life sentence,” Brian said. “You have it for life, but you can also have a full life.”

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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