East Tennessee man battles early onset Parkinson’s disease

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Justin Fields, 32, has a great job at ORAU, is married, and has a large, close knit extended family.

He is also one of up to 10 percent of the one million people with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. who has young onset Parkinson’s disease, or YOPD, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

YOPD affects people under the age of 50 and has symptoms that include tremors of the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face; rigidity of the limbs and trunk; slow movement; and impaired balance and coordination.

People with YOPD may also suffer depression, sleep disturbances, changes in memory and thinking, and constipation or urinary problems

One of Justin Fields’s favorite places is his grandparents’ home in Maryville. He enjoys going down memory lane with them.

Aubrey and Joyce Fields are the type of grandparents who never missed an important milestone in Justin Fields’s life, and always had an open house for him, his friends, and their other grandkids.

Because of that close, protective bond, it was tough for Justin Fields to break the news that he has  young onset Parkinson’s disease.

“He wouldn’t tell me for a long time, until he took us out to eat to tell us. He just didn’t want to tell us. He told everyone else but us. He didn’t want us to worry and he knows that we would worry,” said Joyce Fields.

When asked about his hopes for Justin’s future, Aubrey Fields simply said “that he has a long life.”

When Justin Fields thinks back to his first symptoms, he says it was easy to dismiss them.

“I do believe one of the first symptoms I had was having trouble staying asleep at night and that’s something if you’re a young professional just starting out with a new career, maybe just out of college, that’s something you might not really think about because you stay awake so much during college, up all night studying or having a party or what have you,” he said. “It could be a transitional time for you and you might not notice it, but I think that as my first symptom. The last symptom that got me to the doctor was having a tremor in my hand. I thought it was just me being way too tired from not getting sleep.”

Daily medication helps keep the tremors at bay and Justin Fields refuses to give in, doing all he can to help others fighting the same battle.

He is the local event organizer for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and is inviting everyone to the 80s themed Prom for Parkinson’s at 8p.m. on March 23 at the Grande Events Center, 5441 Clinton Highway. Tickets are $50 each.

Click here to purchase tickets, learn more about the event, or make a donation.

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