It was during a baseball game in 1998 that Bruce Engel noticed a tremor in his hand. The 78-year-old Quesnel resident, father of five, and grandfather of 21, had, until that point, been in great health and enjoyed hunting, fishing, and farming his ranch. It wasn’t until his son, a doctor in North Carolina, recognized his symptoms to be indicative of Parkinson’s disease that Bruce got a glimmer of understanding into his condition.
Bruce searched the web for resources on how to cope with his new diagnosis. In 2010 he came across an article about a woman in the United Kingdom who found great relief from her severe Parkinson’s symptoms from a procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). Bruce consulted with his doctor in Prince George about the procedure only to be told there was a several year wait in British Columbia for the surgery. Fortunately, due to previous business endeavors in the United States, he had US medical insurance, which allowed him to have the procedure done in Seattle. From consultation to operating day, only one month had gone by.
Though Bruce saw great results from his DBS surgery, he was displeased with how long other British Columbians had to wait. This led him to volunteering with Parkinson Society BC and our CEO, Jean Blake, for advocacy initiatives targeting DBS wait times in this province.
In 2015, he and his caregiver/wife Teri started a support group in Quesnel. In the first meeting, only two people attended, but over the course of four years, the attendance has grown to 20 individuals. What Bruce finds most rewarding about leading the support group is speaking with other people going through something similar and learning from each other. They have built a sense of community where they can relate to one another and not feel alone in this sometimes frightening journey.
He credits Parkinson Society BC with providing him a wealth of resources and information. “Without PSBC, I never would have learned all I learned. We are grateful for their support,” says Bruce.