Behind the Story: Redefining the Limits of Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is something that affects roughly one million people in the United States and ten million people worldwide. The general public knows very little about the disease until it strikes someone in their family. In this article we found a recent Cal Poly graduate who is seeking to help people with later stage symptom of Parkinson’s.

Sidney Collin CEO and founder of De Oro Devices has been working on developing a device in which she calls “Gaitway.” This device attaches to a cane or walker to help people with Parkinson’s work pass freeze of gait. One of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s is that the brain stops sending signals to different parts of the body making it very difficult to walk.

Orlando Severo holds his walker with the device attached to the handle bar while it gives makes loud ticking sounds to help stimulate neural pathway connections that are disrupted by Parkinson’s disease.

With her device it gives people with Parkinson’s the ability to do so. After interviewing Collin who was so helpful in explaining what the device is, how it works, and educating us on the different parts of Parkinson’s, she then introduced us to Jack Brill. Brill is an eighty-seven-year-old man who has been struggling with freezing of gait.

Brill was the original person that Collin designed the device for. Getting to meet Brill was a new experience for most of our group members because we have never met a person with Parkinson’s.

“I think my most challenging experience was getting comfortable enough with the individuals with Parkinson’s trying out the device,” journalism senior Megan Day said. “At first it felt so personal I wanted to tell the story correctly.”

Jack asked Sidney to go in his room and bring out a book with photos from his childhood and young adult life. Here is poses with a photo of himself from grade school.

After talking with my group we realized this was a story that was a lot more personal than we first anticipated. At first we thought it was going to be a profile on Sidney Collin and her success story as a Cal Poly student and her winning money, but it took a strong emotional turn when she introduced us to Brill.

Hearing a man say, “It changed my life. It has been a tremendous help,” was a crazy experience. You hear about these stories but never get to be involved in them.

In the end we were able to spend a lot of time with the people we interviewed and it made a huge difference being able to tell the story.

“We spent a lot of time with the people we interviewed and it was really great to be able to capture what this device means for them,” journalism senior Camila Gonzalez said.

It was not all easy though. There was some getting lost going to interviews, and some difficult decisions on what angle to take on the story. This story could have gone so many different ways. A profile on Sidney, on the company, or the one that we choose highlighting a success story of her work. We chose this because it brought emotion into the story and people could relate to it better and maybe we could reach a larger audience than just at Cal Poly.

Sidney and Jack look over a book made up of photos from his childhood into his adult life, while he explains growing up, becoming an engineer, joining the military, and writing his book.

“The most challenging part for me was keeping the story concise and not 2,000 words cuz there’s so much to write about,” journalism senior Daniel Sanchez said.