For 10 years now, Vera Shury, a certified specialist in exercise therapy and a fitness trainer, has passionately used her skills and love for helping people throughout the region improve motor skills to deal with Parkinson’s disease.

Shury’s interest in therapy came from helping her mother recover from a car accident that occurred in 1993. A man hit her mother head on at 100 miles-per-hour, which left her mother in critical condition and with multiple broken bones. Shury ended up helping her mother recover for the next several years.

“She was living in Sun City Vistoso, at the time, in Oro Valley and all the people saw how I helped her to recover,” said Shury.

Shury moved out of being a business executive and became a certified fitness trainer around the age of 61. Shortly after completing her certification she attended a Sun City club fair where she was offered the opportunity to work with clients who have Parkinson’s disease. In order to take the job, Shury had to attend classes at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix. She finished and had her first therapy class at her own home.

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease. The cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain, called neurons. Parkinson’s primarily affects neurons in the an area of the brain called the substantia nigra. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls movement and coordination. As PD progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, leaving a person unable to control movement normally.

Parkinson’s disease usually effects those who are 50 years or older. There are medications that can help relieve certain symptoms, but no cure has been found, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Out of $151 million funded towards the research of Parkinson’s disease, NINDS gave $96 million.

Oro Valley resident Rick Paskoe, who started a support group over the last year, describes the disease as living in a prison.

Shury’s therapy helps eye focus, voice, swallowing, balancing, and walking techniques and more. She also involves weight training, martial arts, karate and agility training.

“It’s an inspiration to me that people come to the class and are putting in the effort to improve their quality of life,” said Shury. “My clients push me too, which helps.”

April is Parkinson’s disease Awareness Month.

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