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Changing Perspectives/Changing Lives

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My grandpa was always angry. Or so I thought. He rarely smiled, or talked to us kids, and when he did we couldn’t understand him.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s and my older sister and I were talking about our childhood and memories of grandpa, when I realized that there was more to the story. Grandpa was not a chronic grump, he had Parkinson’s disease. Being older and probably more observant, my sister remembered him winking at her often and his small smiles when he watched us play in the living room at his feet. She told me about the shaking at the dinner table and her memories of grandma yelling at him for making a mess on the table cloth when he spilled his drink or dropped his food in his lap. My heart ached for this man that I never really knew and the misperception I had of him for most of my life. I know if I had known more about what grandpa was going through or if he had had some help or if my grandma had had some education about Parkinson’s disease, we all would have had a better relationship and he may have had a better quality of life. My grandpa passed away in 2003.

My grandpa definitely had a part in my decision to become a speech language pathologist, as well as encouragement from my older sister, who is also a speech language pathologist. As a Speech Language Pathologists I work with people who have communication disorders. This means people who have difficulty talking, thinking or getting the words out, which impacts their ability to communicate and interact with others. When I was in graduate school, my sister told me about this amazing program she had just learned about, called the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment LOUD (LSVT-LOUD). She was so excited about this program because it was designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s disease, like grandpa. I was inspired to be trained in this program and have learned so much about Parkinson’s disease. I learned how to help those living with this diagnosis communicate and enjoy their time with loved ones for longer.

People with Parkinson’s disease may talk very quietly and fast making it hard to understand them. Their brain changes their perception of their loudness. A person with Parkinson’s may think they are talking as loud as one normally should; however, they are actually talking much quieter. My job, as a Speech Language Pathologist, is to help people with Parkinson’s disease find their voice, to help them be louder and to change their perception of their voice.

LSVT LOUD is an intensive program with great results that are lasting. At Hutchinson Regional Medical Center I work with patient’s with Parkinson’s  on a daily basis and I know from their personal reports that it is helping them enjoy their lives more because they can participate and be active for longer despite their diagnosis. I see bits of my grandpa in every patient that I help and I know he would be pleased with the change in my perception and a better understanding of what he was going through on a daily basis.  

My name is Emily Ptacek. I am a native of Lyons, Kansas and resident of Hutchinson. I graduated from Fort Hays State University with bachelor degrees in vocal performance and communication disorders and a masters in speech language pathology in 2014. I have been working at HRMC for the past 2 years as a speech language pathologist.

To find out more about speech therapy or other services provided by our Rehabilitation Services team contact 620.665.2104.