Metro-East News

Parkinson’s conference in Collinville connects people with resources, others who have disease

Sandy Steppig, of Millstadt, was a registered nurse. She had a tremor that her husband, Don Steppig, noticed — cluing him in on an eventual prognosis.

In 2006, Sandy Steppig was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a year after her mother-in-law, who had the disease, died.

Sandy Steppig was a panelist at the Partners in Parkinson’s conference Saturday, where she spoke about the importance of having support while going through the disease.

“I just want to help people,” Steppig said. “There’s lots of people that call me come talk to me, and ask me questions. I’m more than happy to help anybody who asks for it.”

About 500 people were expected at the conference at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, including people from as far away as Tulsa, Okla.

The event, sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, included sessions on Parkinson’s disease research and panels of people living with the condition.

The foundation, in partnership with Abbvie, a bio-pharmaceutical company, has put on about 15 conferences around the country in the last two years. This was their first time in the St. Louis area.

“It’s an educational initiative that connects people with Parkinson’s to local resources, additional information and other people with the Parkinson’s disease,” said Kristin Pate, vice president of advancement for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

It’s important to know there is a support community available not just for patients, but for the caregivers as well. It effects everybody’s lives. As a caregiver, what do I need to know? What can I do to help navigate this new journey?

Ann Regal, wife of Michael Malta, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease

Michael Malta and his wife, Ann Regal, came to the conference from Ellisville, Mo.

Malta was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. Leading up to the diagnosis, he noticed his right arm wouldn’t swing naturally while he walked.

Malta connected with another person at the conference who had gone through similar experiences.

“I’m looking for some support, other people going through the same things I’m going through,” Malta said.

He also was interested in finding out about new treatments and research, which was a topic of one of the sessions.

“I’m always interested in new information, which is slow coming,” Malta said. “There’s not much published progress that you hear about.”

For Regal, being the caregiver, she wanted to connect with other caregivers.

“It’s important to know there is a support community available not just for patients, but for the caregivers as well,” Regal said “It effects everybody’s lives. As a caregiver, what do I need to know? What can I do to help navigate this new journey?”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter

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