Earl Walton was diagnosed with a rare brain disease in the summer of 2012 called progressive supra-nuclear palsy.
PSP is a rare brain disorder that causes serious and progressive problems with control of gait and balance, along with complex eye movement and thinking problems, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Affected individuals often show alterations of mood and behavior, including depression, apathy and progerssive mild dementia.
“There is no treatment and no cure,” said his wife, Pam Walton.
That’s a fact the Walton family hopes to change.
Walton, at age 67, was a relatively healthy man until he started getting “strange” symptoms about a year before his diagnosis.
The first thing the Patrick resident and his family noticed is that occasionally he would have odd emotional responses.
“He would sometimes laugh at things that were not funny, and continue to laugh uncontrollably,” said Pam Walton.
Next, there were occasional tremors.
From there, “so many little things began to add up, he was sent to a neurologist,” she said.
Some doctors refer to the disease as Parkinson’s Plus, because many of the symptoms are similar. Walton’s eyesight has been greatly effected, and that has caused problems with keeping his balance.
Earl Walton was once a great guitar player, and had quite a nice singing voice, his wife said.
But Earl, Pam, and the entire extended family are determined not to dwell on the negative side of his health issues. Instead, they are focusing on turning his rare disease into a rare opportunity to raise money for research.
On Earl’s birthday last year, the family organized a competition among themselves to raise money to donate to clinical research for progressive supra-nuclear palsy. This year, on Saturday, March 15, they are inviting the public to help in their efforts to raise awareness for the disease, and money to help battle it.
The family oriented event will be held at Turnage Field in Patrick between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. March 15. It will offer a corn hole tournament with a trophy, and lots of other games and activities for adults and children.
There will be hot dogs, drinks, cup cakes, and lots of homemade baked goods for sale.
“We want to celebrate the wonderful support we’ve gotten from friends, family and the community,” said Pam Walton. “We want to look at in a positive light, because we have been blessed in so many ways. And we want to help find a cure for this disease.”
Together, the Waltons have six children. Some of them will be coming home for the event from Kentucky and Virginia. And though it’s all in fun, the competition will begin in earnest.
Last year, it was the guys against the girls. And as you can see in the group photo of the men in the family, several of them are sporting the infamous L, for loser, across their forehead. That’s because the women of the family raised more money than the men.
“We had set our goal at $1,000 last year,” said Pam Walton. “And we raised almost $4,500. We were pleasantly surprised.”
The competition gets really strong among the family, she said. Last year the losers had to paint their hair green.
The Waltons hope others will join them in this battle called life.
For more information about progressive supra-nuclear palsy, or to donate, visit curepsp.org.
— Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261.