NORMAN — Dr. Nicole Jarvis recognized the signs.
First came weakness, nausea and disorientation. She repeatedly fell down the stairs at her Norman office. Then came stiffness. Her right leg sometimes dragged. Her right arm tightened up so that it was difficult to move. Her right thumb developed a tremor.
Even though she is a gynecologist/obstetrician — not a neurologist — she realized what was happening. Tests ruled out other diagnoses; all she was left with was Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative condition for which there is no cure.
“It most commonly affects people over 65,” said Jarvis, 39, a married mother of 5-year-old twin boys. “The typical picture is a more elderly person whom you’ll see shuffling along with tremors, shaking (and) really rigid or stiff muscles. You’ll see a lot with mask face, where they don’t have much movement of their face at all.”
Only about 10 percent of patients are under the age of 50, she said. She has Young Onset Parkinson’s; so does “Family Ties” actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed at 29.
Medications can alleviate symptoms, at least for awhile. Once Jarvis felt a little better, she started looking for a local way to contribute to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, but although there are more than 1,500 Foundation events annually held worldwide, she could find none in Oklahoma.
That wouldn’t do.
So she created the Nicole Jarvis MD Winter Gala for Parkinson’s disease Research, which will be from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Dec. 13, at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman.
The inaugural event will include a silent auction, a live auction, dinner and talks by a representative from the Fox Foundation’s New York headquarters; Jarvis’ neurologist, Dr. Kevin Klos, of Tulsa; and University of Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale.
The live auction will include vacation packages, VIP tickets and round-trip transportation to “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” sports memorabilia, photography packages, a $5,000 orthodontics package and teeth whitening, Botox and microdermabrasion treatments, among others.
The sports items include signed balls or jerseys from Coale, OU football coach Bob Stoops, former coach Barry Switzer, NFL star Wes Welker and Oklahoma City Thunder players.
So far, Jarvis said, she has raised nearly $60,000. Matching funds will be provided by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, through the Brin Wojcicki Challenge, a joint effort with the Fox Foundation; that brings the total to nearly $120,000.
That’s just the beginning. Jarvis plans to establish a Fox Foundation chapter in Oklahoma next year. She intends to host winter galas each December.
“They’re just going to get bigger and better,” she said.
The gala sold out in October, but Oklahomans still can help by donating money to Parkinson’s research or big ticket items to the auctions.
For more information or to donate online, go to http://tinyurl.com/jarviswintergala.
For additional ways to donate, call 701-2424.