Good News: Parkinson's weightlifter - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Good News: Parkinson's weightlifter

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

As she lifted a personal best, Pamela Turek continued to fight her personal worst.

At the age of 72, and 11 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's, Turek has taken up competitive weightlifting, winning her age group at last weekend's Matt Davis Memorial Championship in Savannah. And it hardly mattered that she was the only one in that age group.

"It was exciting and a little intimidating,” said Turek. “We just focus on a spot in front of us and go, so I just really don't remember a lot of it.”

"She did real well,” added Turek’s Coach Michael Cohen. “She handled the pressure real well and she kept her technique and she kept her composure.”

And she kept finding ways to fight the battle she has been engaged in since she was in her 50s.

"With Parkinson's, you tend to get depressed and I did, in the beginning,” said Turek, who was diagnosed in 2005. “I went through a really bad depression.”

Various forms of physical therapy helped, but Turek says she has seen significant improvement since participating in Get Excited and Move.

That is a program for Parkinson’s patients offered at the Anderson-Cohen Weightlifting Center in Savannah that was designed by Cohen. It incorporates boxing, calisthenics and weightlifting to improve motor and cognitive skills.

"I think it just makes me feel better about myself. I feel better physically,” said Turek. “And I think that's it, I think it just clears my mind and my body out.”

"It's the socialization,” added Cohen. “It's being around other people, being around a non-clinical environment. It's being around a facility where you're referred to as an athlete and not a client or a patient. It changes everything.”

Whatever it was, GEM turned Turek into a weightlifter because soon her two days in the program weren't enough.

"The weekend would come and I could feel myself going down,” she said. “So I checked with Michael and I said, ‘can I come in on Saturday?’ And he said ‘absolutely.’”

Three days of training became four days, and in just five weeks, Turek went from snatching 11 pounds to three times that, qualifying for the American Masters Championship.

And weightlifting became more than lifting weights. It is also about lifting stigmas for Turek.

"I think I'm doing it with the hope that other people with Parkinson’s are going to see,” said Turek. “I would just like people to know that you can get out there and have a really good time. I will tell a lot of people I'm lucky to have Parkinson's because I never would have done any of this. This never would have been a part of my life and you know, you can’t beat that, you really can't beat that.”

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