Google Alert – Parkinson’s

Morning Runs

Morning Runs

5 days a week my morning routine generally consist of an early wake up – rush out in the darkness of the dawns sky before my sleeping children awake headed to a gym that opens at 5:30. Say hello to my gym friends that I would not recognize in normal clothes – try to draw inspiration from a running companion named Stu – I know once we get started no matter how hard it is – we will finish. Undertake my 5.5 mile journey. Stretch for a very short period and head back home. Where hopefully our two children are still in a slumber state. A switching of the guards generally occurs. Don headed out the door for the office and morning workouts or practice. Then the games begin. School preparations underway. Getting dressed, hair (2 girls and hair could be the whole morning), breakfast, let the dog out, text my close girlfriends, feed the dog, prepare for any after school activities, pack lunches, school bags, a load of laundry and of course make the beds. Headed out the door. Driving to school quizzing the whole time on wordly wise spelling words. I’ve decided this is more dangerous than texting while driving! Kiss goodbye – too short. Wave to our favorite person, the crossing guard and then head to daughter number 2’s preschool.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts

It’s the same for many mothers around the world- maybe not the running part but that’s my coffee. After the drop off I head home to the silence of my house and the reality of my day. The whole morning I haven’t spoke about Parkinson’s – its silently looming in my brain-but by the time I get home, even if I wanted to escape it for the day, I can’t. I live by my phone- I’m not proud of that but everyday whether I’m in denial or not I receive an email. A lovely Google Alert. A 9 am email about subject matters that interest me. “Google Alert- Parkinson’s” is the from and the subject line. I love this feature and I signed up for it. I just don’t always love the news it sends to me. Some days I just stare at it – not opening it today. I can only live in that denial for perhaps an hour at most. It haunts me. I open it. Many days it fuels my company, MagnaReady. Inspiring me to stay on tract and forge ahead. Often it brings me compelling stories of other people’s valiant fights. Some days it’s repetitive information – often about how it’s diagnosed and lack of smell being early warning signs and fundraisers. But someday, yes someday, I have to believe my phone will EXPLODE with the Google Alert that there has been a cure. Until then I will continue to embrace my cocktail – a brief period of my day not thinking about it mixed with the elixir of motivation for MagnaReady and topped with the a lemon wedge of hope.

My Cocktail

My Cocktail

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Building Walls – The Offensive Line

Don Horton's True Love- the Game

Don Horton’s True Love- the Game of Football

Don has known he wanted to be in athletics his entire life.  At the earliest age of remembrance, he was geared up with some sort of ball, ready for action at anytime, blessed to live in an area and an era when pick-up games happened everyday, rain or shine, sleet or snow.  Those days in the open fields are some of his best memories.  His mother often tells the story that he could have followed in his father’s footsteps and became a surgeon.  She recalls a phone call that she received from a guidance counselor at his school.  “Don seems fascinated with this whole football thing. His test scores are very high and it is our recommendation that we steer him in another direction.”  She didn’t miss a beat.  Where some parents would concur and assist help in the matter, she declared that it was Don’s decision.  She has always empowered her children (and now grandchildren) with that same voice of choice – often asking them, “What would you like to do?”  And so, his love of the game persisted to grow and to flourish.  By the time I met Don, he was so fully entrenched that I had only one choice.  If I wanted our relationship to survive I too had to jump in.  It was an easy transition for me; a sister to 5 brothers (sandwiched right in between) who had me outside for countless hours as well, playing basketball, kickball or hotbox.  Somehow, I was always in the middle – never picked first among the boys, but I could hang and my competitive genes grew as well.  I’m actually not sure my parents can recall a basketball game that I didn’t foul out of.

Don and I met after a football game, one of his friends was dating one of mine.  He was coaching at the time at a division three school in Ohio; his alma matter- Wittenberg.  We commuted to see each other, and I, like his parents, never missed a game. Home or away- it was just what we did.  Many games were far and in small but beautiful rural towns.  Upon arriving, I would watch with pure amazement.  His ability to make split second decisions, encourage his players when they were down and to give everything he had everyday.  He rarely ever raised his voice.  He always said that if they didn’t know it by game time – screaming wouldn’t jog their memories.  I have always admired his strengths.  His quiet nature is humbling – he is never boastful.  He could always take any discussion down to the simplest of terms and navigate it gracefully.  His strengths just illuminate from within.  I was marrying the best man on this planet, but I was also sharing him with many others; a group of men called the offensive line.

He wanted to win – who doesn’t want to be successful – but he always chose to leave his imprint as his mentors, Dave Maurer, Ron Murphy and Tom O’Brien did with him.  The position he coached was always the most fascinating to me …. The Offensive Line.  This great massive group of men – 5 who stand to defend and protect on every play.  They rarely handle the ball, unless it’s fumbled.  They receive no accolades – silent warriors protecting a quarterback.  They act as a unit to be perfect – every snap so that the team has a chance for success.  They are big but have feet like ballet dancers. They are often the most feared and respected guys on the team.  And, within each of them, I see an amazing large heart that matches their physical appearance.

Bricks and Mortar

Bricks and Mortar- Jeremy Trueblood, Gosder Cherilus, Pat Ross, Josh Beekman, Ty Hall, Kevin Sheridan, James Marten, Tom Anevski

Brick and Mortar Of Our Team

Don has been surrounded by some of the best offensive lineman out there at every level.  I’ll brag a bit.  He was voted the second best offensive line coach in division one athletics ALL while he was coaching with Parkinson’s.  Around him a wall has been built – a wall of men that stand together, impermeable.  The courage these men demonstrate now to be associated with Don – in sickness or in health – is almost as strong as the vow I took some 19 years ago.  These men call him just to pick his brain, to say hi, to check on our children and share good and sad stories about their families that we’ve come to know.  These men are why I truly love football, and when these players became aware that Don is living with Parkinson’s, I have been brought to tears by how strong and supportive they have been.  Even when Don accepted a change in position, taking him off of the field, he still felt privileged to be surrounded by such fine athletes.    These athletes are, and always have been, the brick and mortar of our lives.

don oline bc

What Is In A Name? Everything!

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Hayes Elizabeth Horton

We waited 9 years to jump in the family game. All the while questions of when are you guys going to start a family had escalated and then ceased. I’m sure because our respective families had just given up. Being a coach’s wife there was never the right time, moving was always looming in the back of our heads. We wanted stability- something we both had. Don grew up an the idyllic town of Indian Hill, Ohio and I in Columbus Ohio. Neither of our parents had ever moved at this point- yes we were firmly planted midwesterners. So when we learned in July that we would be expecting our first born in early March. We were all delighted. The timing was perfect. College football coaches really only get two times a year of “down time”. One is in the first half of July, just after spring ball and high school camps and the second in late February early March concluding a grueling season and recruiting. So, I was looking forward to the fact that Don would be available and present.

The doctors visit that the second most common question asked during pregnancy came to light. Are you finding out the sex? Don and I approached this quiet differently. Of course I wanted to know. Plan, analyze and dwell on are things I’m quiet good at. Don who is actually the real strategic thinker of the family decided no … he would rather be surprised. So, as I sit in Dr. Morrais office watching the ultra sound screen for a clue … she asked….. Do you want to know? YES! Are you sure? Without Don? Answer again… Yes. Then the Catholic guilt started to set in and she said “I will write this down, seal it and when you get home you can open together if thats what you decide”. With anxious excitement Don walked in after a long day of two a days – he was in the middle of camp. “I said in this envelope the sex of our child is written down. Do you want to open it?” It was like having Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. “No, Maura I want to be surprised BUT you can… just keep it to yourself.” It laid there on our kitchen counter all night- sealed. The next morning he assured me that he would be ok if I knew but we would still plan name wise .. and room wise… for either sex and I wasn’t to tell anyone- family, friends, etc. Deal! He left. I opened it and it said GIRL. We really have been ok at accepting each others boundaries without resentment and he knew that a long football season with out him around to share in our new excitement would be hard enough. I’m sure he thought if I needed this bone… it was mine for the taking.

So after the morning sickness subsided it was time for the name game. We both knew we wanted a strong name, regardless of the sex. We both agreed that we would never name the child “TD” (touchdown) Horton and have to grow up in his fathers shadow and try to fill the name he was given. We wanted strong but not harsh. Smart but not a know it all. Memorable but not brazen. At the same time JK Rowling was making her impact and I loved the fact that in the beginning she succeeded with a name that was considered to be male. We decide we wanted a name that would go either way- for a boy or a girl. This was a harder challenge than one might think. I come from a family of 11 (yes, Irish Catholic) siblings. They had all started having their families and names were starting to run short in supply.

When I wasn’t even pondering the name of our child, I looked down at our coffee table and saw on top of the stack of books was one written by John Lombardo. The title… A Fire To Win. The Life And Times Of Woody Hayes

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I am a Buckeye by birth and married to someone who not only did his graduate work at The Ohio State University but also coached under Earl Bruce. It gave me pause…… Hayes Horton….. Hayes Horton…….I think I love it! Woody Hayes possessed a quick wit, a sense of humor, and a broad grin that could win over any crowd. Well respected, a little crazy and tough. Known for not being afraid of a fight but smart enough to know he had to plan for it. All good things in my book! Sounds like the qualities I hope for in a child. …..Next the Don test. Will Don really consider or will it be back to the drawing board? Not sure if it was from pure exhaustion from being in the middle of a season but ran it passed him without any objections…….Next the Horton family book… did the name exist? Was there once a Hayes Horton. We consulted the powers to be and yes, some time ago there was a Hayes Horton.  Its official no mater what sex we have name! A name with great character.

Three and a half years later we were introduced to a new person with the name Hayes. Michael Hayes. Actually, Dr. Michael Hayes- Neurologist at St. Elizabeth Hospital – the same place my Hayes Elizabeth was welcomed into this world.

dr M hayes

It was this Dr. Hayes that broke the news to us that Don has Parkinson’s disease. It was this Dr Hayes that told us of all the disease you could have this was one of the best. He assured us that we would most likely see a cure in our lifetime. I guess he was kind of like Woody Hayes in the fact that that he could deliver bad news but also give you a silver lining of hope.

So our challenges with Parkinson’s will be most like the classic 10 year war… OSU vs Michigan. Always exciting, weathering ups and downs and hard hitting.  A legendary Woody vs Bo battle. It will definitely be longer than their fight for us because WE WONT GIVE UP! All in the name of Hayes Horton.

bo-woody1

Link

Don Horton Steps Down

NC State tight ends coach Don Horton will no longer coach, but will remain on the Wolfpack staff as the assistant director of football operations, the school announced on Thursday.

“It is with great excitement that I approach the next step in my professional career in athletic administration,” Horton said in a prepared statement. “Coach [Tom] O’Brien and NC State athletics have offered my family and me a great opportunity to become involved in the administration and I am extremely grateful. I would like to thank all those who have made this next step possible.”

“I am thrilled to have Coach Horton continue in his career here at NC State,” O’Brien stated. “As a member of our staff for the past 15 years, he has been more than an excellent football coach. He has also has done a tremendous job developing young men and setting high standards when it comes to hard work and how to do things the right way. In his new role, he will continue to benefit everyone associated with this football program, and we are as excited about this opportunity as he is.”

Horton began coaching at Ohio State in 1982 as a graduate assistant. He made coaching stops at nine other schools and made the trip to NC State with O’Brien in 2007. He has mentored more than 15 NFL players and has coached in 12 college bowl games.

 

Our Starting Point. I have good news…. I have Parkinson’s Disease!

When I married at the tender age of 24, my mom had told me that the things that will shake your foundation will come at the least likely of times. Ours happened on a random Tuesday morning when the sun is shining and the world was still looking bright. That’s exactly how I remember the day that I got the phone call from my husband relaying the news of his latest doctor’s visit. On this perfectly great Tuesday, I was in the car listening to a Laurie Berkner CD, driving our three year old to an art class. Nothing strange, just Don calling, much like clockwork, at 11:30 sharp. The funny thing is, that when he called, he said, “I have good news. I have Parkinson’s Disease.” Literally, I stopped in my tracks, and asked, “this is good news?”, and he responded, “Yes, Dr. Hayes said there will be a cure in our lifetime.” And, just like that, life resumed. He went back to work as a college football coach at Boston College, and I went about my day. But, despite the “good news”, questions began to form. Within a few hours, panic set in. What did this mean? How would we cope? We have a three year old and are trying desperately for another child to complete our brood…

We reconvened at home that evening. Both of us were separately searching the internet for answers, and both of us were at a loss for words. Which, is not unlike Don and his quiet reflective nature but definitely unlike me who feels compelled to be heard. I’m sure that is a product of being raised in a family of eleven siblings. Phone calls to were then made… disbelief ensued… second opinions were urged…. and later a lengthy denial persisted. Never in motion was a written plan of attack ever drafted, but in the quiet of our own home, we often discussed the strategy of how we would handle this information.

Unfortunately, in the athletic world there are no signs of weakness allowed (that are actually made known out loud); that’s the law of the jungle. The weak are discarded. Only the strong survive. So, after much thought and consultation, our plan was that we would tell immediate family only, and Don’s boss, head coach, former marine, and well respected friend, Tom O’Brien. Though I wasn’t there the day this discussion happened, Don has told me that it was short and sweet and no time for concern.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Don’s commitments with Coach O’Brien brought us to Raleigh, North Carolina. We would be soon be discovering a new environment, great challenges professionally, and a very odd beginning to new friendships. You see, it’s not often that you have to explain why your husband may speak softly, freeze in a chair, or not be able to move his left hand to someone that you’ve never met. Though I don’t believe that you should feel the need to explain, we were now in the South where everyone knows everybody’s business. And as a result, we secluded ourselves and became a much stronger family unit. Despite the change in lifestyle, we were happy, and had a new daughter in the mix.

In the midst of a relentless coaching battle to improve a new program at NC State, Don started to show outward signs of his disease. The hours of a coach are grueling, and I truly mean giving 24 hours of one’s self to not only to better the program, but, more importantly, to the development of its young men. But this was his passion, and he was becoming frustrated by the lack of movement his body was beginning to trap him in. I recall the night he came home after a game, and I’m not sure if they won or loss, but I’m SURE he can recall that fact. I was sitting at my computer and he said to my back, “…hard day today”. I replied something sarcastic, like “what was your offensive line thinking”, or “how many sacks were given up?” He said, “no…hard day today”. I knew better than to turn around. In the 3 ½ years since he was diagnosed, we had never discussed his difficult days with Parkinson’s because neither of us would actually give in. I just asked what happened. He said, “I was stuck, stuck in the locker room, and I couldn’t button my shirt.” I remained silent. He told me that Russell Wilson had helped him. Then very slowly and he told me in defeat that a player had to help him get dressed so that he could catch the team plane. I stood up, not addressing the difficulty, and said, “That’s just the kind of person Russell is, Don”. I knew that he was feeling a lack of control, a bit of embarrassment and humility, so to soften the blow, I said, “If anyone understood, it was Russell.”

This conversation churned over and over in my mind. I felt desperate to help him and his situation. How could I ease the burden of the simple task of getting dressed? I spent hours online searching for a solution – surely there were options in menswear. I saw Velcro dress shirts and had them FedEx’d in time for his next trip. Upon receiving them, I was disappointed by their quality. I noticed how thin they were and knew that they would only last a few dry cleanings. I also saw he would still need his dexterity to line it up properly. Then the wheels started spinning, and I had an epiphany – Magnets – why not put magnets on the inside – they would line up independently and I could just convert the existing shirts that he already had. But, after tearing one apart I saw this wasn’t a possibility, the magnets slipped and needed to be sewn into a system. Back to the drawing board, but I knew that I was on the right track. I made a phone calls. I sketched my ideas, and I decided to order a few prototypes. Once the idea felt realistic, I told a few friends. It felt encouraging, and I was so optimistic, I actually flew down to Florida to present the idea to Shark Tank ready to jump in with both feet.

After being chosen as a finalist, I knew that I had a viable idea. I was asked to put together a video to bring to the taping. I shared this with a few friends, and within weeks, I had an investor (and dropped out of Shark Tank). And, long story short, that’s where we are today, finally launching MagnaReady, a magnetically infused dress shirt and the concept of stress free shirting. Obviously aimed at people with limited mobility (and not just the 5 million Parkinson’s sufferers but stroke victims, arthritis sufferers, wounded warriors, etc.), this product could be great for a number of other people (including nursing moms). It is truly our hope that until there is a cure, we can help people who struggle with their daily tasks live a little simpler and help restore a little dignity to their daily routine. After all, getting dressed shouldn’t be a stressful task – Living with a disability is hard enough…