Sanders has plenty of support to deal with Parkinson’s
Though Parkinson’s is a difficult disease to live with, Barbara and Bob Sanders survive through it because of love. Bob, a 29-year veteran with the Carson City Fire Department, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s since 2006. The disease has since left him wheelchair-bound with difficulty speaking — a vast contrast from the man who was fighting fires to save the community.
“Tears still come out of the blue because we can’t do the things we used to do and it is the most difficult to just see him deteriorate,” Barbara said. “He used to be the biggest guy at the fire department and then to see him like this is a really sad thing.”
When Barbara and Bob first met decades ago, they were both working at the Carson City Fire Department; Bob started in 1969 as a firefighter before moving up to captain and finally to battalion chief and Barbara as a dispatcher.
But, the two first noticed 12 years ago Bob’s hands started shaking and his kids noticed he would get a blank stare frequently.
“We were taking care of my mother at the time so I had thought it was from stress,” Barbara said.
It wasn’t until a pastor at their church suggested it may be Parkinson’s that they went to a neurologist to confirm. And at first, the disease was manageable, Bob stayed strong and was able to walk around and travel — which can be difficult tasks for people with Parkinson’s — he even threw out the opening pitch at the Reno Aces baseball game one year.
“We even had him in Rock Steady Boxing (for Parkinson’s) but the last couple of years he just got weaker,” Barbara said.
But, for the couple, love is what pushes them through the difficulties; the love they share with their family, church and each other.
“An important thing for a person with Parkinson’s is their family,” Barbara said.
“My family are supportive of me and what condition I have,” Bob added. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”
Bob said they have three of their five children in the area still, plus 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, who often come by to help the pair out.
“They are all very supportive of grandpa,” Barbara said. “Some families don’t have that support and I am so thankful (we do).”
Aside from their family, the husband and wife find great comfort in their faith to help get them through the difficult times.
“It has been a challenge, I don’t know how anyone can do these things without the Lord,” Barbara said. “We know that God will be there for us.”
Barbara said their church family constantly reaches out to support, even coming to pick up Bob every Thursday morning for men’s Bible study.
For them, that outpouring of support is the most beneficial, especially since the pair have had a rough few months. Recently, because of his deteriorating condition, Bob has had to move into Skyline Senior Living and Memory Care in Carson City four days a week.
The move came partially because of the difficulty of the disease and partially due to the stress it caused for Barbara.
“We had to do something because I was so stressed,” Barbara said. “He is a big man and I can’t lift him by myself if he falls … and I know he wants to be home, he loves to be home.”
So the two were able to work out an arrangement where Bob could come home Sundays, just in time for church, and spend three days at home while giving Barbara a rest the remainder of the week. And her and the kids are still able to visit Bob every day at Skyline.
“It works out great, and Barbara needs a rest. It is too much for her, I am a high maintenance guy,” Bob laughed. “My legs are the biggest problem. They are very weak.”
It’s the love for his wife that helps Bob through the times he isn’t at home.
“Skyline is kind of lonely sometimes, but I realize it has value because Barbara is able to get her rest,” Bob said. “She feels better about it and so do it, so it is a win-win. And I get plenty of visitors, I couldn’t ask for a better family.”
But through it all, the couple hasn’t let the disease take over their lives or their love.
“You just have to play the hand you’re dealt,” Bob said. “You can’t whine, there is always someone worse off than me.”