A Day in the Life of a Parkinson’s Ambassador: Barry Branson

clay pigeons

Our Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors are at the heart of our organization. They are our fearless leaders dedicated to living well today, who use their knowledge, passion, and experience to support others going through a Parkinson’s journey. Each Monday during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we will highlight a “Day in the Life” of one of our amazing Ambassadors. This week, we are happy to feature Barry Branson. Here is “a day in his life,” in his own words:

I have been trapshooting or coaching most of my life. Trapshooting, a kind of clay target shooting, requires movement, accuracy, and split-second timing. Because Parkinson’s has slowed my gun swing, I now help coach our youth, and over the years I have coached grades six through twelve. Currently, I am a range safety officer at our club. Trapshooting is big where I live; not only can you earn a high school sports letter for the sport, but you can win a college scholarship! We even have several Nebraska kids participating in the Jr. Olympic program in Colorado Springs.  

“This photo is from a couple of weeks ago, when it snowed 15 inches,” Barry says. “The kids cleared paths and then started practice.”

I wear an enteral suspension (Duopa) pump 16 hours every day for my Parkinson’s medications. Like coaching trapshooting, I “coach” others living with Parkinson’s about Duopa. I’ve been trained as a pump mentor and lead mentoring sessions and speeches online. It’s not unlike how I train people on how to reload their gun shells safely.  

As a person with Parkinson’s, there are few rules I live by. One, I never meet a person with a tremor without introducing myself. Two, because everybody knows somebody with Parkinson’s (you never know when opportunity to connect with someone else in your shoes will show up!), I always carry my DPF briefcase full of Parkinson’s materials with me. It frequently comes in handy, like the time I went to an exhibit recently with my hand sanitizer, three masks, and my DPF briefcase. My enteral suspension pump hangs on my left shoulder, in plain sight, so as I paid my admission, I explained what it was and what it did. I noticed that few people were asking me about it, even though they keep looking at the pump. I see these moments as opportunities. I told them that the pump dispenses levodopa for my Parkinson’s. Education is valuable! If I notice someone experiencing tremors, I NEVER out them, just tell them how the pump has improved my life.  

I’ve noticed throughout the years that care partners always want to talk, as they can feel ignored. I have learned so much about this important part of living well with Parkinson’s from Connie Phinney; I am lucky to have her in my corner. If care partners are receptive, I give them a card and tell them about local support groups.   

Coaching, educating others, and my number one tool—humor—help me live well with Parkinson’s every day.  

Barry Branson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012. Barry began attending local meetings and support groups, joined several exercise classes for Parkinson’s, and researched the support available to him. Becoming aware of a number of people who had Parkinson’s allowed Barry to connect with many new faces and build meaningful friendships. After hiding his diagnosis for so long, Barry felt great relief and resolved to share what he continues to learn with others.

want to get to know more of our ambassadors?

Each year, our Ambassadors speak with thousands of individuals and families looking for support and community to help them live well with Parkinson’s. Ambassadors are available to speak with you through email, phone, video conference, and in-person. You can look to connect with an Ambassador in your area or reach out to anyone who you think you would connect well with, regardless of location. Learn more and connect here.

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