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Walking Parkinson’s Path

  • Published
  • By Airman Autumn Vogt
  • 49 Wing Public Affairs

He looked down placing his face in his hands. Tears welled in his eyes and his throat tightened.

He forced a few breaths. The strong smell of bleach and alcohol in the exam room hit his nostrils and lingered, making it even harder to catch his breath.

His mind was racing.

What was this disease?

What does this mean for his family? His career? His future?

Both doctors casually stood there after abruptly giving him the diagnoses and waited.

After realizing he was not going to get more advice, he stood, grabbed the door handle and walked out of the room.

After approximately a year of doctors’ visits, Paul Brezinski, at 37 years old, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but that was only the beginning of his journey.

“When I first got diagnosed, I cried for a little bit and didn’t know what to do,” said Brezinski. “You have to get up and make the best of it. There’s no point in being down about it.”

The first step of his journey was to get the support of his father, Ray. After being told the diagnoses, he drifted to his car and made the call. Tears spilled down his face as he told Ray how the doctors had impersonally diagnosed him with Parkinson’s.

As a veteran from the Vietnam War, his father placed the blame on himself. He had seen studies showing Parkinson’s being passed down genetically from chemicals he had been exposed to during the war.

But his son, disagreed pointing out sometimes there is no reason, and it wasn’t his fault.

The next step was driving home to tell his children. With his oldest being only seven at the time, it made it hard for them to understand. Brezinski explained it simply as the cause of his shaky hands.

The next step they took as a family-- a search for answers.

His children, much like himself, scoured the Internet for answers on Parkinson’s.

His journey to live his life for family soon led him to his wife, Angela.

Upon returning home from his deployment to Afghanistan, he and his first wife divorced. About six months after the divorce was final, he met Angela.

“I met Angela in November 2010,” said Brezinski. “She’s like an angel. I told her, to be fair, that I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and it’s not going to get better. It’s going to get worse, and if she doesn’t want to stick around, I get it. And, she said no.”

Angela had been going through a difficult time. She felt that God blessed her by meeting Paul, and she wanted to be there to support him too.

“He’s a good man regardless of condition,” said Angela Brezinski, his wife of seven years. “In sickness and in health, when you have a good man, that’s all that matters.”

As the 49th Medical Group commander, Col. Paul Brezinski enjoys his busy lifestyle. He fills it with extra activities such as coaching and playing soccer as well as having fun with family and fellow Airmen.

Unfortunately, his active lifestyle has been weakening his health and worsening his Parkinson’s.

“I’ll start to limp because I lose control,” said Brezinski. “It’s usually my left leg that gets really stiff and my arm will pull up.”

As his health waned, Brezinski prepared for deep brain stimulation surgery June 15 because he had built up a tolerance to his medication.

“I’ve had a couple neurologists refer me for deep brain simulation surgery,” said Brezinski. “I was trying to avoid that because I’m not too excited about having holes drilled in my head.”

He is excited to take the next step for his family. His goal is to be able to walk at all of his children’s high school graduations, including his two-year-old son, Ray.

“Instead of looking at a second career,” said Brezinski. “I’m going to try to stay home with the kids. My new goal, instead of finding a new job, position or organization… I want to walk to Ray’s high school graduation. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have this surgery.”