Hunting, fishing, driving as Parkinson's disease therapy

10 Oct 2018 | 12:43

By David Bruce
— Scott Roehm moves slowly until he gets behind the wheel of his 2016 Corvette Z06.
Parkinson's disease has stiffened the muscles in his legs, forcing the 56-year-old Millcreek Township man to shuffle more than walk. But the illness hasn't taken away his need for speed.
“I got the Corvette up to 168 miles an hour racing a Mustang," Roehm said with a smile.
“I call it his therapy," said Roehm's wife, Tammy.
Roehm remains in motion, at one speed or another, even though he has battled Parkinson's every day since symptoms first appeared in 2010. He hunts, fishes, restores cars and still works full time as a mechanic and service manager.
He credits deep-brain stimulation, a procedure he underwent in 2014 at Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital, for reducing the tremors that Parkinson's caused and allowing him to continue living an active life.
“By 2014, Scott was shaking so badly that he would hold his left hand when he walked," Tammy Roehm said.
Deep-brain stimulation is when a doctor implants electrodes in certain areas of the brain to produce electrical impulses that regulate abnormal ones caused by Parkinson's and other diseases. It has proved effective at reducing or eliminating tremors in many Parkinson's patients, though it is less successful at dealing with other symptoms like muscle stiffness.
Roehm said he can tell his symptoms are getting more severe.
“It's getting harder to use my hands at work," Roehm said. “I'm thinking of retiring next year."
But Roehm has no plans to give up his hobbies. He earned a Triple Trophy badge from the Pennsylvania Game Commission for killing a bear, a turkey and a buck during the 2016-17 hunting season.
He hunts with both a crossbow and a gun, so he can be in the woods nearly nonstop from late September until early spring if he desires.
“The most difficult part is walking through the woods," Roehm said. “I don't want to trip and fall. It's also harder to put up my tree stand."
It's also more difficult for Roehm to tie fishing tackle, but that didn't stop him from catching nearly 200 walleye in Lake Erie this past summer. He said it was the best fishing he has ever experienced.
Retirement could also mean more time spent fishing with his daughters, Christie Wood and Natasha Roehm, and their six children.
“I think all of my dad's activities help him deal with everything that is going on," Wood said.
And the problems with his hands won't stop him from restoring cars, especially the Corvettes he loves so much. He plans to restore one he damaged in a June 2015 accident that fractured his pelvis and broke his ankle.
He went hunting that fall despite the injuries. Doctors at first forbade him from hunting but prescribed antibiotics when they realized he was going in the woods regardless.
“When I was diagnosed, I said I was just going to deal with it," Roehm said. “It hasn't been that bad until the last year or so. I got a little depressed, and that's why I went fishing more. Fishing and hunting make me feel great, like driving a car does."