Eric Aquino, a 41-year-old who lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, doesn’t take life for granted. He’s an active emergency medical technician (EMT) who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in February 2018, two weeks after his 40th birthday.
Eric says he experienced resting tremors for a couple years and his grandmother had Parkinson’s, so the diagnosis wasn’t as much of a shock as it is for some patients. While tremors are still among the most challenging symptoms he faces, he also points out how difficult it can be to manage anxiety, a common non-motor symptom of the disease.
Eric is proactive about his health. Once he was diagnosed, he immediately began his search for resources. He identified The Michael J. Fox Foundation and came across Fox Insight, our online clinical study that aims to transform the search for better treatments by gathering information directly from people with and without Parkinson’s.
Eric decided to register for Fox Insight along with more than 41,000 other participants. The online study distributes surveys and questionnaires about health, medical history and day-to-day experiences. To get an accurate snapshot of Parkinson’s disease over time, Fox Insight invites participants to complete surveys for up to five years.
“With Parkinson’s, our health can change in a matter of days or weeks. It’s important for scientists to know how things are changing over time so they can develop better treatments,” Eric says.
Continuously on top of his health, Eric makes sure to routinely complete his Fox Insight surveys every few months.
“Fox Insight is contributing to eventually, perhaps sometime in my family’s lifetime, a goal of Parkinson’s not being around. It feels awesome to take part in this research,” Eric says.
While Eric participates in Fox Insight and found other online resources, he struggled with locating local support. As a result, he started his own nonprofit organization, Gray Strong Foundation, to help people in his local community of Easton. His nonprofit promotes awareness and support of people with Parkinson’s, especially as it relates to exercise, which can be one of the best ways to treat the disease. (Watch our Ask the MD video to learn more about the benefits of being active.)
Eric also launched a podcast – called Trembling EMT – inspired by the unique journey of each person with Parkinson’s. For the last year and a half, he has broadcast weekly episodes about his personal experience with Parkinson’s, often including interviews with doctors and others in the community.
He believes it is extremely valuable to connect with other people who are living with the disease. After interviewing someone with Parkinson’s who lives in another state for his podcast, Eric expressed comfort in knowing he’s not going through it alone.
“It’s amazing to speak to people that relate with you and truly understand what you’re going through,” Eric declares.
To learn more or register for our online study, visit Fox Insight.
Eric supporting pink gear in honor of Pink Heals, a nonprofit group of fire fighters, police officers and volunteers that support women and their families battling all types of cancers.
Eric conquering his fear of heights and ziplining at a Boy Scout camp in West Virginia with his son.