Dan Bullock came across as a gentle, always smiling, unprepossessing man. No airs about this fellow.
Dan delighted in his wife Gaye’s hot-wire energy. Not that he was a wall flower. He just ceded center stage to his bubbly partner.
Few of us in the Parkinson’s Community knew Dan Bullock’s moving story. It unspooled at his death Sept. 5 in Warner Robins (GA), age 59.
Turns out modest Dan was Maj. Daniel Edward Bullock, USAF (Ret.), a brave and determined warrior against Parkinsonism.
Bullock, of Washington, DC, received his undergraduate degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He earned his Master’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering while in Air Force service.
Dan profiled himself in 2019 as part of a project of our Middle Georgia Parkinson’s Support Group.
“I completed my military career at Robins AFB, Georgia, retiring in 2004 after 20 years of service,” Dan wrote.
“Since then I have held a variety of positions as an engineer and project manager with a number of companies, but always supporting the Air Force.”
Dan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014 at about age 52.
Dan and Gaye joined one of the “Study Action” groups in 2019 that Struby and I convened for Parkies. The purpose was to give sufferers and their care partners verified information and help them find ways to live well with this incurable and inscrutable condition.
The Bullocks were standouts. They did the assigned reading, came prepared and readily shared what action steps they would take to bring life to the words they had read.
Dan wrote that his medications had worked well to control his “slowness of speech and (my) poor handwriting, but has not done much for my balance, which leads me to fall at least a couple of times a week.
“In just the last couple of years, we received a refinement of the original diagnosis: a couple of neurologists told me what I really have is Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a form of Parkinsonism which is related to Parkinson’s in that it’s caused by the death of brain cells in a certain section of the brain and has similar symptoms…and the treatments are the same.
“It differs from Parkinson’s in that slow speech and difficulty swallowing usually occur more significantly than with Parkinson’s disease. Difficulty moving the eyes, especially problems looking downward, are also more common in PSP. And unlike people with Parkinson’s, people with PSP are more likely to lean backward (and fall backward) rather than forward. I have experienced all of these symptoms.
“I participated for a while in Rock Steady Boxing (until I hurt my hip in a fall which made it difficult to walk and confined me to a wheelchair) …now that I’m nearly healed, I hope to return soon. It was definitely fun as well as therapeutic.
“I am now retired (mostly due to my condition), and I don’t drive anymore…but my wife and I agreed about a year and a half ago to buy a recumbent tricycle (more stable than a bicycle), and I ride it nearly every day, at least 3½ miles. It keeps me active, provides great cardiovascular exercise, and gives me back some of my lost mobility around town.
“So, at the moment, I’m just continuing to fight the good fight. I’m convinced that vigorous exercise is essential, so I continue to ride my trike daily, work out with our home gym equipment, and I look forward to returning to Rock Steady Boxing soon.
“We consider Dr. (Adolfo) Ramirez-Zamora at the Movement Disorders Clinic at the University of Florida in Gainesville to be ‘our’ neurologist and are committed to traveling there several times a year, because of the good service they have provided us (and the fact that there are no Movement Disorders Specialists in Middle Georgia).
“We also continue to take things one day at a time, trusting our Lord Jesus Christ with everything, knowing that he’ll be there to help us through the rough spots, and that he’ll make everything work out the way it’s supposed to.
“One example: we were approved for full Social Security Disability payments just a couple months after our first application…something we were told never happens…definitely a ‘God thing!’
“I still enjoy playing the electric bass (with Gaye, who plays guitar, and on our church’s worship music team), target shooting, and outdoor photography (which I can still do, because I haven’t experienced any tremors (yet), for which I’m very grateful!).
“We’re very active in our church (Calvary Chapel) and have received a lot of support from the membership there, but we are also very grateful for the encouragement and support of Gil and Struby Thelen, and all the members of their “tribe” of fellow Parkies, and everyone associated with the Macon PD support group. A big ‘Thank you’ to all of you!”
Dan Bullock never, ever gave up to the Monster growing in his brain.
Pam Addleton, a retired, elder advocate who has worked with many Parkinson’s sufferers, said of Dan: “PSP captured Dan, but Parkies continue to punch it with courage, smarts and a will to stay engaged in living.”