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Cherishing Life: Disease Motivates Local Nurse

Cherishing Life: Disease Motivates Local Nurse

Belleville News-Democrat

October 12, 2009

Oct. 12- Five years ago, Sandy Steppig noticed a tremor in her left foot.

No big deal.

Except it didn’t go away.

“I had a suspicion,” said Sandy, 56, a registered nurse at O’Fallon Family Medicine.

Her mother-in-law had Parkinson’s disease. So had some of her home-care patients who, depending on the severity of the degenerative nerve disease, had trouble walking, grasping, talking or swallowing.

Her primary physician made the diagnosis. Another year went by before her neurologist started her on medication.

Now, she stays healthy by exercising, eating right, taking her medicine – 15 pills a day, including vitamins – and resting when she needs to.

“I go for a walk every day to keep myself flexible,” she said, sitting in a quiet office at the usually bustling practice. “I’ve heard tango dancing may help. My husband and I enjoy dancing a lot.”

Sometimes, a year goes by without a change. Stress exacerbates Parkinson’s symptoms.

This past summer, she was put to the test. Both of Sandy’s parents were ill. Her 77-year-old mother was recuperating from back surgery. After nine weeks in the hospital, her 84-year-old father came home with feeding tubes.

“I would do tube feedings at night,” she said. “These guys here – the doctors and the staff – were wonderful. There were days when I came in late or when I didn’t come in. During the time he was critical, I would spend time at the hospital.”

Her illness may have motivated her parents.

“They didn’t want me to be affected,” she said.

Parkinson’s also motivates Sandy, a tall, trim brunette with a warm smile.

“It makes me cherish each day I can be up and around,” she said. “Maybe I want to do something instead of waiting – visit my son (Scott, 29) more in Arizona.”

Getting on with life

Since Sandy’s diagnosis, her life is the same and different. She and husband Don live in a Millstadt ranch-style home purchased before she was diagnosed.

“It’s on one level,” she said. “The laundry is in the hallway. It’s good for someone who might anticipate being physically challenged. It’s easily adaptable.”

In January, she switched from home-health nurse to triage nurse in an office setting.

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