Alison Paolini is what she calls a "Parkinsonian." Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1999, she has remained a "creatively active" artist and poet, teaching for many years at the Paradise Art Center and lending her illustrator's talent to a new children's book.
"Carson And His Shaky Paws Grampa" ($15.95 in hardcover from Innovo Publishing; also available in digital formats for the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook) is by Kirk Hall, a fellow Parkinsonian in Colorado. Diagnosed with a movement disorder called Essential Tremor in 1991, and Parkinson's in 2008, Hall wanted a way to talk to younger family members about what was happening.
The simple story is told by Hall's seven-year-old grandson, Carson. "When I was really little," he says, "Granma and Grampa Hall lived in a log cabin with lots of trees and a big fireplace." Later his grandparents move closer to the family, and Carson notices the tremor in Grampa's hands. "I asked him what was wrong. He told us not to worry and that he just had 'shaky paws.' 'Besides,' he said, 'I can stir my coffee without even trying!'"
As the condition worsens, Grampa tells Carson that "he was very excited because his doctor was going to help with his shaky paws. He said he would be going to the hospital three times for a special procedure that would take away his shakiness." The procedure works for Grampa Hall, and he is able to have more fun with Carson. The story ends at Easter dinner, with Grampa "giving thanks for his special procedure. He got choked up and couldn't finish. It seemed like he needed a hug," Carson adds, "so I gave him one."
A "note to parents and grandparents" at the end of the book provides a wealth of resources, including information on "deep brain stimulation" surgery which helped the author. It's "described as a 'pacemaker for the brain,'" and though it's not a cure, "it should effectively eliminate my shakiness for years to come. By the time Carson is older, other symptoms may become noticeable. At that time, I will share more with him."
Paolini's colorful sketches will help allay children's fears, giving adults an opportunity to explain something about Parkinson's or Essential Tremor in an age-appropriate fashion.