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Ron

After a musical performance one night, nearly a decade ago, a woman approached Ron Siteman and said, “I’m praying for you. It’s too bad you’re not going to see your son grow up.” His son was only four years old at the time. As this well-meaning but insensitive remark laid bare Ron’s own nervousness about the future, the members of his quartet quietly surrounded him in a circle of support.

Ron was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, at age 45. No stranger to discussions about health and illness – his wife is a pharmacist and his sister, a health professional – his initial reaction to the diagnosis was to find out everything he could about Parkinson’s. “Being informed help alleviate a lot of the pressure initially.”

With a background in choral music and talent for reading musical scores, Ron was just the person to teach band to high school students in the Halifax area. He was also a guitar teacher and vocal coach at the Halifax Folklore Centre; so he was concerned: “With all the skills I have, what would I lose? Would I be in a situation where I wouldn’t be able to play again?”

His family doctor commented, “It would be a shame if you can’t play guitar.” Ron responded, “What do you mean? I don’t intend to stop. I’ve been playing for 40 years. There’s got to be a way to continue.” He has. He switched from a regular 6-string guitar to a 12-string guitar to make it easier for his hand to keep rhythm, play fast and amplify sound.

He continued with the school board until 2007. “A substitute teacher has to be ready to go in 10 minutes,” says Ron. “With Parkinson’s, it was taking me 45 minutes to get dressed. From an income standpoint, it was pointless to continue dealing with that.”

Ron and his wife agreed that he would become their son’s primary caregiver. He is there when his son, now 13, gets home from school, and he has household chores to do. He says, “I still have to contribute, so I contribute the way I can. In the family, I’m still who I always was.”

The Parkinson’s tremors became more and more intrusive, disrupting Ron’s daily life, so he consulted with his neurologist and determined that deep brain stimulation surgery would be his best option. The procedure involves inserting a probe into the brain and targeting specific areas that may control tremor or involuntary movements. Ron had the surgery in May 2009. He says, “It put the guitar back in my hands.” The 6-string guitar.

Aware that “a lot of people have had to give up so much when they get this disease,” Ron approached Parkinson Society Maritime Region about doing a benefit concert for Parkinson’s. The It’s Not the End of the World Concert for Parkinson’s raised $1100 in fall 2009. The Silver Lining Concert for Parkinson's raised $1000 in spring 2011.

Ron Siteman, June 2011

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Maritime Region

7071 Bayers Road, Suite 150
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3L 2C2

Toll free: 1-800-663-2468
Phone: 1-902-422-3656
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psmr@parkinsonmaritimes.ca