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Parkinson's Disease Patient Tells Personal Story to Benefit PD Research; Donates Book Proceeds to PD Charities
Date:7/1/2010

Bill Schmalfeldt thought his story was worth telling. After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2000, having experimental deep brain stimulation surgery in 2007, Bill wrote a manuscript about the experience. Not only could he not find a literary agent willing to even look at it, publishers rejected it without even reading sample chapters. Believing the story needed to be told, Bill dug into his own pockets and took the self-publishing route. Now he's donating the author proceeds to the PD organizations that helped him.

(PRWEB) July 1, 2010 -- After undergoing experimental brain surgery, a Maryland Parkinson’s disease patient believed his story would make an interesting and uplifting book for people suffering from the same condition. He just couldn't find a literary agent who agreed with him.

Most publishers will only accept requested manuscripts from agents they have done business with in the past. Becoming a author at an established publishing house, he discovered, was like trying to join an exclusive country club by just walking in off the street and asking for an application.

Frustrated after years of trying to get an agent to even answer a query letter, Bill Schmalfeldt decided to take matters into his own hands. Reaching into his own pocket, he has self-published his story and is donating 100 percent of the author’s proceeds from the book’s sale to help find a cure for this crippling, degenerative neurological disease.

"No Doorway Wide Enough" is Schmalfeldt’s personal story about living with a neurological disease that afflicts over a million Americans. 100 percent of the author proceeds will be donated to the National Parkinson Foundation and the Charles DBS Research Fund at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The title comes from my days as a Navy hospital corpsman at the former U.S. Naval Home in Gulfport, Ms.,” the 55-year old writer said. “I used to wonder why it was that some of the older folks tended to stop and ‘size up’ a doorway before walking through. I did a spot-on impression of this effect for my friends at parties. Got lots of laughs. Now I know the reason for it.”

The book began its life as a blog, "My Parkinson's Disease Diary". With his daily entries, Schmalfeldt weaves a fascinating tale that starts with being diagnosed at age 45, why he decided to participate in an experimental clinical trial that involved brain surgery, and his recovery and life afterwards. With a wry and sardonic sense of humor, Schmalfeldt tells of his personal struggle with the disease, pulling no punches over his frustration over the mixed results of his surgery. “It’s the story of my Parkinson’s decade — 2000 to 2010,” Schmalfeldt said.

“This book is written not only for the Parkinson’s disease patient,” Schmalfeldt said, “but for anyone who knows, cares for, or loves someone who has this beast of a disease. It's also for the guy or gal who will see the neurologist tomorrow, next week or next year and get the diagnosis. The one thing I want people to take away from this book is that Parkinson’s disease is not a death sentence. It’s a life sentence.”

Schmalfeldt said that the book was also meant to highlight the importance of clinical trials in medical research. In 2007, Schmalfeldt volunteered for a clinical trial at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to test the safety and tolerabilty of deep brain stimulation in early PD.

“Clinical trials are vital in the search for new treatments and cures in a variety of diseases,” said Schmalfeldt, who works from home as a writer-editor for the Clinical Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. “Without people volunteering to take part in this kind of research, scientists would have a much harder time finding new drugs, treatments and outright cures for the diseases that have plagued mankind throughout the years.”

A former news reporter, radio talk show host and one of the original program directors at XM Satellite Radio, Schmalfeldt learned about the clinical trial at Vanderbilt in the course of his duties at NIH. “I write and produce podcasts about the importance of clinical trials,” he said. “What kind of hypocrite would I be if I saw a trial that I was qualified for and didn’t participate?"

But it's not all happy talk. His story can not have a happy ending, barring the discovery of a cure. He discusses with brutal frankness his increasing problems with walking, freezing-of-gait, loss of balance, speech difficulties (particularly difficult for the award-winning former broadcaster), and what seems to be the onset of the early stages of Parkinson's disease dementia. He recounts a recent hallucination that helps explain why he gave up driving in May 2000.

"Gail and I were leaving the parking lot at the Mall of Columbia," Schmalfeldt said. "I was looking out my widow to the right, and I turned my head back towards the center and saw something that scared the hell out of me. It looked like Gail was just about to run over a small child! Except, of course, for the fact that she wasn’t. What I thought was a kid was actually the little group of charms she has hanging from the rear view mirror. But for a second there, it looked just like a little kid."

These "illusions" (as his neurologist calls them) are happening more frequently and, according to Schmalfeldt, motivate him to tell his story now while he can still do so clearly.

This is Schmalfeldt’s first try at non-fiction. His previous works, “…by the people…”, “Undercover Trucker: How I Saved America by Truckin’ Towels for the Taliban,” and “Hunky Dunk,” are available at his web site as well as at major online booksellers worldwide. The book is available as a hardcover, a deluxe paperback, a standard paperback, an Amazon "Kindle" book, and in practically every available downloadable eBook format.

A native of Clinton, Iowa, Schmalfeldt lives with his wife, Gail, in Elkridge, Md. He continues to blog daily at http://parkinsondiary.com.

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Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/07/prweb4211904.htm.


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