Louisa Voss and her husband, Gregg, should get the award for the “most miles traveled” since Gregg, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2006. Gregg grew up on a farm and enjoyed hunting, a passion that continues to today. Since the day of the diagnosis, Louisa and Gregg have gone to Africa and this summer Gregg will go to the Deadwood, SD area hunting prairie dogs and in the fall will go to New Mexico elk hunting with his son-in-law and grandsons.
When Gregg was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s, some people started to give advice and told me I needed to build a ramp up to the house right away to prepare for the future. “I’m not going to build that ramp until I have to!” said Louisa.
Gregg worked for a couple of years after the diagnosis. “It was a huge thing for Gregg to retire. I retired early last year as well and it was an easier transition that I expected it to be. PD makes you sit back and go ‘wow’. You reassess your life plan. You have to live for now.”
Gregg does not sit still even when he is at home. Louisa said.
“Gregg doesn’t shake when he shoots a gun. He shoots trap and sporting clays and his aim is dead on. Sometimes I hear his gun go off at 11 o’clock at night and I know that he has shot a coyote he saw out in our field. Once when he went out to check out his kill and I did not see him leave, I accidently locked him out of the house! Gregg put up a new shed and has a huge garden of vegetables and flowers that people want to give me credit for. In some ways he is sharper than I am.”
The Voss family and extended family and friends, have participated in three of the annual Twin Cities Moving Day Walks for Parkinson’s, a fundraising event sponsored by the Parkinson’s Foundation MN (PFMN).
“We are a pretty competitive family, and strive to raise the most money as a team. This year we raised almost $14,000 between pledges for the walk and our pool tournament,” Louisa said.
Then there is their pool tournament. As a family they decided to hold a pool tournament to raise money for the PFMN. Louisa and Gregg’s three children are in sales and marketing so they sprang into action and told Louisa and Gregg, “this is what we are going to do.” Louisa said, “People will come to play pool and have fun. They are also happy to buy a raffle ticket for $10 to see what they can win. In the two-day tournament, we raised around $10,000. The next week, I called Julie at the PFMN and said, “ I am coming into your office. I have to get all this cash out of the house!”
Today Gregg still drives, but only locally; Louisa does most of the long-distance driving. Gregg has tremors and his right foot drags. Louisa said, “This is life. We didn’t choose it. You can sit back and feel sorry for yourself – or you can keep going on with life. Someday we will probably have that ramp going into the house – but not before we travel some more. And even then, we will keep raising money for the PFMN.”
Story written by Susan Gangsei, author of The Light in the Middle of the Tunnel – Harrowing but Hopeful Stories of Parkinson’s Family Caregivers.