Living with Parkinson’s – and Superheroes

When Chris Trump was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011, he couldn’t have predicted where he’d be today.

“I felt like my world was crumbling. I was in my 40s, with a wife and young kids and a job I needed to keep. My mother had Parkinson’s – she was diagnosed in her 60s and she declined very quickly. I thought that would be my fate.” Chris was so anxious about the future that he didn’t share his diagnosis with his siblings at first, because he didn’t want to worry them.

“Someone recommended I contact Dr. Iyer, and that changed everything. He knows how to manage this disease clinically, but he also has a way of reaching patients emotionally. The initial consult with him was the first time I heard the phrase living with Parkinson’s and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since – living with it. As Dr. Iyer says, I have Parkinson’s, but Parkinson’s doesn’t have me.”

Chris knew he needed something to focus his energy and attention. He’d collected comic books since childhood, and had thousands of them in boxes. Inspired by the release of superhero movies, he opened them up.

“I started to study the history of comic books. There’s a company that grades old comics based on their condition and scarcity, and that grade is used to assign a value. I learned you can clean and press comics to improve their grade.”

A new hobby was born of an old passion.

“I watched a lot of videos and learned by trial and error. My first tools were basically a T-shirt press and a white eraser, and I just kept experimenting. I joined some Facebook groups and met people online who wanted to demystify the restoration process. I shared before and after photos of my own books and people started asking me to restore their books. It developed into a little side business, and Parkinson’s hasn’t been an issue. I don’t work on comics during my off periods, but it’s therapeutic for me. I’ve noticed that when I’m using my hands, my symptoms subside or move to another part of my body.”

And then one day inspiration struck.

“My wife has a blue light kit for teeth whitening. I wondered whether it might also lighten the yellowing on a comic book – and it does! I consulted with some online friends, and together we experimented with different sources of blue LED light, enhanced with a solution of hydrogen peroxide, and we found a new way to retain and improve the value of an aging comic book while keeping the book intact.”

Chris and his partners have written a book on comic book stain removal, and they continue to perfect the process and share what they’ve learned. “It’s like living with Parkinson’s. I just do it, and I keep learning more and doing it better. You can’t be afraid to take on something that requires the motor skills you think you’re losing – there may be limits, but I can decide where they are. Comic book restoration has opened doors for me, I’ve met people all over the world. We’re all dealing with something – for me, it happens to be Parkinson’s. It’s there, I manage it, and I go on living and doing what makes me happy.”

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A Note from Dr. Iyer

Michael J. Fox once said, “Look at the choices you have, not the choices that have been taken away from you.”  People like Chris who choose action over inertia are the real superheroes. Those who dig deep and try something new often find the sense of purpose they’ve been missing.