Pars For Parkinson's

An NJ based 501-C3 Charity for Parkinson's Disease

You Never Know A Man Until….

December 3, 2013
YOU NEVER KNOW A MAN UNTIL…
Debby Flancbaum
Posted May 14 2008
“You never know a man until you live with him.” During the past 10 months, I’ve come to a different conclusion. “You never know a man until he is diagnosed with a progressive, incurable, neurological disease.” May 16, 2008 is exactly one year since my husband, Lou, and I were told that he has Parkinson’s Disease.
It started out innocently enough. One evening, about four years ago, Lou was embroiled in a heated discussion with his teenage daughter. In a moment of insanity on his part, he actually tried to have a rational conversation with her about her spending habits. Her illogical and self-serving remarks angered and upset him.
During this exchange, I noticed Lou’s right hand shaking “like a leaf.” That’s an expression that I never thought I’d use on a daily basis. I didn’t think too much about it. After all, who among us hasn’t been reduced to having some type of physical, visceral reaction in the face of an argument with a teenage offspring?
Now when I think back to that day, and that argument, I see imaginary molecules of dopamine flying out of his brain into oblivion.
In the year leading up to the diagnosis, I noticed that if Lou became emotional at all, his hand or his pointer finger would exhibit a tremor − nothing huge, nothing that stopped him from doing anything he needed to do, nothing that kept him from performing surgery.
At my insistence, my husband called a neurologist friend of his to discuss these weird little symptoms. He told Lou that it was probably nothing, but to make an appointment with a neurologist who specializes in “movement disorders.” Movement disorders − a euphemism that was new to us, so much easier to actually hear than “Parkinson’s Disease.”
Alessandro DiRocco, an Italian Jew, was the person who put Lou through his paces on that hazy, hot and humid mid-May day. The guy saw us at five p.m. in his dingy, cubicle of an office in downtown New York. We were there until seven. Some things you never forget. I remember that Alex (we count him as a friend now) looked as if he needed a shave, and that he had tears in his eyes when he said the words “Parkinson’s Disease” − and even more tears in his eyes when he told Lou that he could never operate again.
The irony of the whole situation was surreal. The good news? Alex told us that Lou has a normal life expectancy and with new treatments he may very well have a good quality of life for a very long time.
Meanwhile, I flashed back to an incident that had happened years earlier. Lou had operated on a young woman. She had a slew of complications (or as he used to call them, “miseries”). He stayed by her bedside for countless hours, slept in a chair in her room several nights and kept her alive by his incredible talent and tenacity. I remember the day that she died. I was with Lou while he called her family.
I will never forget how he wrote her mother’s telephone number on the leg of his scrubs. I don’t recall the words that he used to deliver the horrific news, but I do remember falling in love with him all over again. When he got off the phone, I held him while he wept.
Lou and I cried a river that night in May when we were on the receiving end of devastating news. I cried because my young (53), virile, handsome husband had been put though a battery of exercises, like some kind of trick pony, and the result was Parkinson’s. I cried out of sheer terror. We held one another and we hugged Alex, and he wept right along with us.
The cell phone was ringing, but I couldn’t bring myself to answer it. Who wants to ever deliver this kind of news? But the family knew that we had “the” appointment, so the calls kept coming. Our son-in-law, Ezekiel, had a really tough time with hearing the words I had to say. He thought that the appointment had been unnecessary in the first place − that Lou was just stressed and exhausted. He thought that I was overreacting − as usual. I wish that Zeke had been right. I wished we were all laughing about how nutty Mom is.
When we left Alex’s office, the sky opened with a huge downpour. Lou ran across the busy Manhattan street, barely looking, before he crossed (as per usual) to hail us a taxi. How could someone like him, in the prime of life, a risk taker, a brilliant man, a loving husband, father, grandfather, be stricken with something like this? I couldn’t bring myself to take my foot off the sidewalk. Lou came back and held my hand. I wondered if some day soon I would need to hold his hand while he crossed even the quietest of streets. Unimaginable.
Once the initial shock passed, Lou took up golf, Tai Chi, rowing, yoga and piano lessons. He has a suntan − not the kind of color he used to get from five days of vacation, interrupted by 1,000 phone calls from panicked residents and sick patients (he never turned off the cell – not even when he was in the movies or the shower) − but deep, healthy color from hours in the outdoors rowing a boat or hitting some balls over the net.
He’s dropped a pant-size; he’s eating better and exercising daily. When anyone asks, he says that he feels “great.” His days are busy with consulting work and helping me with anything and everything and with spending time with our granddaughter. She and he are delighted that Saba is available for a daily “swim” in the hot tub or to drive her to pre-school. The other day, she marched her three-year-old self into our house singing “where is Saba… where is Saba” to the tune of “Brother John.” Nothing could have tickled him more.
And, Lou wants to spend some time in Israel learning something. He’s not sure if it’s studying at Pardes or taking an Ulpan, but he just wants to soak up some of Jerusalem now that he has the time.

He wants to become a really good golfer. He reads everything he can get his hands on about golf, watches the Golf Channel and takes practice swings in the living room. I relish being a “golf widow.” Anything that makes him happy and keeps him moving makes me feel great.

Lou’s overriding reaction to this whole situation goes something like this. “Everyone has a load to bear and this is mine.” He believes that new medications and treatments are on the horizon and that he will someday benefit from them. He believes that Michael J. Fox is working overtime and raising a fortune to do it. My reaction? If he’s okay with that, then I’m okay with it too. And I make fruit shakes. Yes, I am the “blender queen.”
Overall, I handle this situation through fruit shakes. I make several a day – heavy on the blueberries. Any time I have the opportunity to get some anti-oxidants into his body, I seize the moment. I also ply my husband with fava beans – a food high in natural dopamine. Our friends are amazed by how many ways there are to cook a fava bean.

Who knows what the years ahead hold for any of us. Right now, I feel blessed. Lou is feeling well. We’re spending time together. We have disability insurance. G-d willing, we’re going to visit Israel for Her 60th birthday. I hope to see him running around the backyard with our granddaughter this spring and I pray that he’ll shoot a few pars and birdies this summer.

Now I feel as if I know my husband on a new level. I see him in yet another new light. He’s brave and strong and full of good grace. And since May, this song pops into my head at least once a day. Spiral Staircase captures how the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease makes me feel about Lou. “Oh, I love you more today than yesterday, But not as much as tomorrow. I love you more today than yesterday. But, darling, not as much as tomorrow.”

Keeping Our Spirits Up!

January 20, 2013

A friend of mine recently applauded me on my continued enthusiasm in planning Pars for Parkinson’s. Clearly, she thought I would be burned out by now. It’s not easy asking for money–and certainly not in this economy. But, every day when the alarm goes off, Lou heads off to Yoga or Pilates class and then he comes home and hits our home exercise equipment. Often he follows that by hitting buckets of golf balls. I can see that he’s stiff and sore and probably takes more Advil than he should. But, he never complains, he just keeps doing what he needs to do. He is determined to keep moving to keep his PD symptoms at bay. So…how can I possibly give up with him as my role model? For as long as he has PD, that’s how long I will keep trying!

Please join us on June 23, 2013 at Tarry Brae Golf Course in South Fallsburg, NY for a fun-filled all for a great cause!

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‘Pars for Parkinson’s’ drives for research

January 10, 2013

BY  HOWARD PROSNITZ
STAFF WRITER - TEANECK SUBURBANITE

 

TEANECK - In 2006 Dr. Louis “Lou” Flancbaum noticed a tremor in his right hand and leg. The East Laurelton Parkway resident, who had been a practicing general surgeon for 30 years, conferred with several neurologist colleagues who assured him the tremor was stress related.

Debby and Dr. Louis Flancbaum enjoy spending time with their grandson Isaiah at their home in Teaneck.

ROY CARATOZZOLO III/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Debby and Dr. Louis Flancbaum enjoy spending time with their grandson Isaiah at their home in Teaneck.

But the tremor didn’t go away, and in May 2007 Flancbaum consulted a neurologist who specialized in movement disorders.

“By the time I was done talking with him, I was retired,” said Flancbaum, who was 53 at the time.

Flancbaum discovered he had Parkinson disease, and became one of the 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.

There are no tests for Parkinson disease. The diagnosis is based on a neurological exam. In the two and a half years since his diagnosis, Flancbaum’s symptoms have remained stable – a hopeful sign. He noted that patients in whom the disease progresses slowly in the first few years are more likely to have a slower progression through life than patients whose conditions worsens rapidly from the outset.

Parkinson disease is a progressive degenerative disease of the nervous system causing tremor, stiffening and slowness. Although there is no cure, there are treatments that control symptoms. In general, Parkinson disease is not life threatening but it can produce debilitating complications.

“Most people who have it die with it rather than from it,” Flancbaum said.

Flancbaum can still thread a needle and do many of the activities he did before developing the disease. He noted that recently when a guest at his home lost consciousness, he inserted the IV after the paramedics were unable to.

“But it would be difficult to function as a surgeon with this diagnosis,” he said.

Parkinson’s develops when the brain produces insufficient amounts of dopamine, an important neuro-transmitter that affects not only movement, but blood pressure and other bodily functions, as well as mood. Almost all medicines used to treat Parkinson are dopamine or are dopamine related.

A More Active Lifestyle!

December 3, 2012

How A Parkinson’s Diagnosis Turned into A More Active Lifestyle and $150,000+ Raised for Team Fox

Posted by  Miranda Lanzillotti, May 08, 2012

Dr. Louis ‘Lou’ Flancbaum was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago. While the diagnosis brought an end to his career as a general surgeon, it also opened the door to a whole new (and unfamiliar) set of responsibilities. As Lou puts it, “I didn’t really retire the day I was diagnosed, I simply traded one career for another.” Lou adopted a more active lifestyle, exercising for two hours each day—a therapy that has enabled him to avoid taking any medication. In addition, he and his zealous wife, Debby, have organized a Team Fox golf outing since 2009, raising more than $150,000 so far for Parkinson’s research. And there is no end in sight to their fundraising efforts.

With the help of a robust committee, Debby and Lou are holding their 3rd Annual Team Fox event on Sunday, May 20, at Tarry Brae Golf Course in South Fallsburg, NY. Called “Pars for Parkinson’s: The Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing,” the event honors Lou and the entire PD community, and it celebrates the life of dear friend Dr. Paul Kudowitz. Paul embodied a loving and giving spirit, so the Flancbaums decided to put their event in his name after he passed away suddenly in December 2010.

The event’s success over the years is a testament to the supportive community that Debby and Lou have fostered since 2009. They are determined to continue fundraising for Team Fox and promoting exercise as a treatment for PD. The ‘New Lou’ recalls, “I was someone who never had the time to exercise. I always made excuses for my poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyle. People are surprised to hear it, but I actually feel better and stronger than I did five years ago.”

The day-long golf outing includes a shotgun start, Kosher bar-b-cue, raffle items, and much more. There is still time to register, so visit their Team Fox page to learn how you can get involved.

TAGS: New York, Team Fox, Golf Outing, Exercise

Golf Outing Renamed in Memory of Dr. Paul Kudowitz

December 3, 2012

An annual golfing benefit for Parkinson’s research was started by and for one Bergen County Jewish family last year. Now, the circle has widened.

Pars for Parkinson’s was the brainchild of Teaneck’s Dr. Lou Flancbaum and his wife, Debby. Lou Flancbaum, a surgeon, had to retire at age 53 in 2007 because of the progressive neurological condition. He discovered his passion for golf after his physician recommended exercise to stave off the stiffness and loss of balance that accompany Parkinson’s disease.

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Dr. Paul Kudowitz
COURTESY KUDOWITZ FAMILY

Last spring, the inaugural event raised more than $44,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, with the help of a cadre of volunteers recruited through the “teaneckshuls” and “englewoodshuls” Yahoo groups. One of those volunteers was Ricki Kudowitz of Englewood, herself a Parkinson’s patient.This year, the May 15 event has been renamed Pars for Parkinson’s: The Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing, in memory of Ricki Kudowitz’s husband, an anesthesiologist killed by a car as he walked home from davening at his son Brian’s home in Englewood on Dec. 24. A month later, his 13-year-old daughter, Moriah School eighth-grader Sabrina, came along to the Pars committee meeting.When Debby Flancbaum showed the group some sample Michael J. Fox Foundation rubber bracelets, Sabrina offered to sell them at Moriah and got permission to do so.“I’ve sold 35, and there are more kids waiting for the next batch to come in,” Sabrina told The Jewish Standard.

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At last year’s Pars for Parkinson golf outing are, from left, Steven Levy, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, and Jay Greenspan.  This year’s outing has been renamed in memory of Dr. Paul Kudowitz of Englewood, pictured at top, who was killed in a hit-run accident Dec. 24.
PAULA KELLY/PAULA KELLY DESIGNS

The bracelets are available in royal blue and pink, with orange and red lettering that says “Team Fox” and “Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing.”

The next batch of 1,000 also will be sold by Sabrina’s older sisters — Cara, 21, at Rutgers University, and Ariele, 25, and Shanna, 24, who live and work in Manhattan. In addition, bracelets will be sold at the Frisch School in Paramus by Haley Silverstein, whose mother is on the Pars committee and whose grandfather had Parkinson’s. The Kudowitz daughters made a Facebook page to help promote the bracelets.

Brian Kudowitz and his wife, Laura, are raising funds for the charity event and are planning to compete in a triathlon this summer for the benefit of the Fox Foundation. “Laura bakes and sells challah every week and earmarks the proceeds to the triathlon and Pars,” said her mother-in-law.

The oldest Kudowitz daughter, Robyn, and her husband, Jonathan Katz, had volunteered to donate hot dogs and burgers for the outing through their Kosher Sports business even before the death of her father.

“We’re a family of doers,” said Ricki Kudowitz. It had been her husband who had noticed the posting on Englewoodshuls about the Pars for Parkinsons committee and had encouraged her to get involved. “He was always a proactive person. He believed you get things by going after them.”

Children of several other committee members have pitched in to solicit corporate and goods-and-services donations, said Flancbaum, including her own daughter, Rachel Sicolo, who works at Kessler Rehab Center and got a donation of anesthetic ointment for the golfers.

“Everyone’s children were moved by what happened with Paul,” said Debby Flancbaum. “It’s very touching. Haley Silverstein never met the Kudowitzes but she wants to start coming to the meetings with her mother. The story has touched people and made them think twice about the fragility of life. There is a feeling that they want some good to come from [the tragedy].”

The second annual Pars for Parkinson’s Golf Outing will take place at Terry Brae Golf Course in South Fallsburg, N.Y. “The excitement and tremendous support mounting around this year’s event make us confident that we will reach and surpass our new goal of $50,000,” said Lou Flancbaum.

The event costs $180 per person or $600 per foursome and includes golf, a cart, kosher continental breakfast and barbecue lunch, beer, soft drinks, a Team Fox golf shirt, a sleeve of balls and other assorted items. The hole-in-one prize is a car, donated by M and M Auto Group of Liberty, N.Y. Hole sponsorships are available for $250, $500, $750, and $1,000. Details are available at www.tinyurl.com/pars-for-parkinson-s.

Among other businesses donating goods and services are Herr’s; Monticello ShopRite; David’s Cookies of Fairfield; Jon-Da Printing of Jersey City; and Butterflake Bake Shop, Sababa Grill, Sammy’s Bagels, Ma’adan, and BLD Fine Art, all of Teaneck.

The Pars for Parkinson’s committee members are Teaneck residents Brian and Cindy Blitz, Ira Goetz, Avi Goldin, Les Glubo, Phillip and Marlene Rhodes, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, Marcy Rubin, L’via Weisinger, Mike Markel, and Bob and Suzan Topaz; Mindy Silverstein of Fair Lawn; Alex and Vicki Wulwick of River Edge; Tova Flancbaum of Manhattan; and Englewood residents Ricki Kudowitz, Jonathan and Robyn Katz, Brian and Laura Kudowitz, and Sabrina Kudowitz.

Don’t Be So Careful What You Wish For….

December 3, 2012
DON’T BE SO CAREFUL OF WHAT YOU WISH FOR… IT MAY TURN OUT BETTER THAN YOU EVER DREAMED…
Debby Flancbaum
Posted Jul 27 2011
            People celebrate all different types of anniversaries. We commemorate weddings, bar mitzvahs, yarzheits, first dates, the day we met our bashert, buying our first car-the list goes on and on. In our house, my husband, Lou, and I always remember that on May 17, 2007 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Each year that passes without significant deterioration to his physical condition is a cause for celebration. Usually, after a good (in this case, no news is good news) report from his neurologist, we go out on the town for a lovely steak dinner and a bottle of cheap, sweet Rashi wine. But, this year, the fourth anniversary of that fateful evening that forever changed our lives, and ended his career as a surgeon, my husband celebrated in an entirely different way.
            Last fall, Lou had mentioned to me that his lifelong dream was to whitewater raft down the Grand Canyon. I don’t really relate to these kinds of dreams, because all of my dreams occur on dry land with my feet firmly planted on the ground. My dreams involve shopping, spas, eating on the mirpesset at the King David Hotel or reading a book on the beach in Cancun. Although he didn’t characterize it this way, I think this rafting extravaganza was an important item on his “bucket list.”
            I am a person who prides herself on really listening to the people I love. It gives me great pleasure to help them make their dreams come true. Lou always advises people to “be careful what you wish for,” when they are dealing with me. For example, a few years ago, he mentioned that he had always wanted to take piano lessons. Knowing me as he does, he should not have been so surprised when the baby grand appeared in our living room. So, as soon as Lou was out of earshot, I started my research about his trip to the Canyon.
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            I know that I’m making this sound like an easy task. He asks for something-and with a snap of my fingers, I deliver. In this case, I was overwhelmed with fear just thinking about him having this type of adventure.
            However, in an attempt to be a loving and supportive spouse, I did start googling rafting trips. Through some keen detective work on my part I found that a trip to the lower portion of the Grand Canyon involved flying in a tiny airplane (the airline actually weighs each passenger before they board so they can figure out how to seat you to balance the plane), riding in a helicopter and three days of rafting in the 55 degree Colorado River. There was nothing about this trip that seemed like a prudent idea for a middle-aged guy with a potbelly – even if he didn’t have Parkinson’s disease.
            But, a dream is a dream, so with great trepidation, I decided to at least explore the possibility of him doing something so obviously crazy. I called the rafting company and immediately became friends with the woman on the other end of the phone. I asked her a zillion questions-most of which pertained to my husband’s safety and welfare. She made everything sound so well organized and professional. She addressed all of my concerns with infinite patience. Finally, I took her into my confidence and told her that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease and I was somewhat concerned that this trip might be “too much” for him.
            Sometimes, I believe, Hashem brings particular people into your life when you need them the most. The voice over the phone told me that her husband was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 53 – a weird coincidence to be sure. She said that from the moment he received the news, even though his symptoms were quite mild, all he’s done is sit on the couch and feel depressed and mope. “You don’t know how lucky you are that your husband wants to do these things. This is a fantastic trip and he’ll have a wonderful time,” she reassured.
            So, I got the paperwork together, sent in his deposit and he was ready to go. Through some cajoling on his part, Lou got six friends to join him on this great adventure. Some of them had major issues of their own-a previous heart attack, a knee replacement, etc.
            At the beginning of June, these seven special men went off on the adventure of a lifetime. They experienced the majestic beauty of the West and were awed by Hashem’s creations. They tested their own strength and agility and they came home with huge smiles on their faces and great stories to tell. In shul, they became “celebrities” and they all enjoyed being in the limelight.
            At the end of next month, we will be hosting a “rafting reunion” bbq at our place in the Catskills. I’ve already been given a head’s up that the guys would like to have another rafting adventure-perhaps the Snake River in Idaho. I realize now how fortunate I am to be married to someone who is upbeat and positive and wants to enjoy his own life and our life together. So, whatever dream he wishes for-I will try to make it come true!

Debby Flancbaum is the author of  The Jewish Woman Next Door (Urim, 2007) and can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com

 

Welcome!

October 29, 2012