Daniel Rogers had his sights set on becoming a doctor but in his sophomore year of college he learned this: Life is what happens when you’re in the middle of making other plans.

A case of mono resulted in lost time in class, but Rogers gained time to re-evaluate his future.

“About that time, it became apparent that my dad was showing signs of Parkinson’s disease,” said Rogers, 25. “I wanted to be a caregiver to my parents and nursing was the clear path for me to pursue.” The oldest son of Douglas, and Cecilia Rogers, Daniel reflected on personal experience and decided to enroll in nursing school.

He became familiar with hospitals at an early age when he was diagnosed with a paralyzed stomach and spent some time at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.  At the age of 12 he had surgery to remove his gallbladder. Since that time, he has had 15 surgeries – many for sports injuries. There was the time he knocked out three teeth playing soccer, and the time he separated his shoulder and broke his collarbone playing rugby for the North Central panthers. Two years later he broke his ankle playing ultimate Frisbee.

“I have always been intrigued by the medical field and I have had some great nurses who helped me understand the healing process,” said Rogers, who recently accepted a position as a registered nurse at IU Health University Hospital in the surgical progressive care unit. 

It was two years ago, at the age of 57 that Douglas Rogers was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has named April “Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.” Nearly one million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder.

“Dad had a slight tremor in his right hand,” said Daniel Rogers, describing his father’s first symptoms. “His body posture started to change – he was stooped with his shoulders forward. His gait changed and he was slower to recover from injuries.”

 It was IU Health where Douglas Rogers met with movement disorder specialists who encouraged him to begin physical therapy, weight resistance and Rock Steady Boxing. The non-contact sport is believed to reverse, reduce and delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and help build strength and flexibility.

“It’s helped him regain his ability to perform every day tasks like shaving, writing and typing, “said Daniel Rogers. “We’ve even noticed his voice is stronger and he’s back singing in church.” Douglas Rogers may also be a candidate for deep brain stimulation in a couple of years, said his son.

“Deep Brain Stimulation treats slowness, stiffness and tremors and reduces dyskinesia, the uncontrollable, often jerky movements that can occur in some Parkinson's patients,” said Carla Van Amburg, a registered nurse and clinical coordinator for the Deep Brain Stimulation Program.

“From the initial meeting with IU Health to the follow up, I’ve known this was where I wanted to work,” said Daniel Rogers. “The nurses and doctors have gone out of their way to smile and enter the room with energy. They are eager to make a connection and make us feel special, giving us their full attention.”

For Daniel, who was once on the soccer or rugby field listening to his dad cheer from the sidelines, it’s time for a role reversal.

“I’ve been close to my dad growing up. He’s been at all my games and we’ve been soccer referees for the past 13 years. He coached me through all my sporting accidents,” said Daniel Rogers. “Now, I feel like it’s my turn to help him. I’ve traded my soccer for nursing and boxing. Together we’re taking on a new sport, a new adventure and we’re in it together.”