You may very well not recognize her by name, but you’ve probably read her story. Joy Milne has an unbelievably unique talent: sensing Parkinson’s disease through her nose. Her gift was discovered when she noticed what she explains as an “overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell” in her husband of ten years. Soon identifying other changes in her husband, in particular personality and mood changes, he finally requested medical help, and was given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.
Later, upon walking into a Parkinson’s support group meeting, that same odor permeated the room – despite the fact that reportedly only Joy was able to smell it. Actually, she was also able to detect different levels of the smell – some whose odor was faint, while for other individuals, it was more powerful. With both her own and her husband’s medical backgrounds (she, a nurse and he, a physician) this discovery was unmistakably noteworthy and warranted further action.
Her story led her to help Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s disease researcher at the University of Edinburgh, with the goal of developing an instrument to offer earlier detection – and in the long run, treatment – of Parkinson’s.
Although initially skeptical of the chance for Parkinson’s being detected through scent, he was open to additional exploration after finding out about the results dogs were having in identifying the scent of cancer in individuals. He then came up with an approach to assess her talents, by providing her with a random group of t-shirts – half of which had been worn by an individual clinically determined to have Parkinson’s, and half by those without the disease – and, her accuracy rate was incredible. In fact, she missed the mark on just one of the shirts, worn by someone without Parkinson’s, but who actually was subsequently identified as having the condition as well.
Kunath says, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic, adds that although the idea is intriguing, there are still quite a few questions to first sort out.
Parkinson’s disease, in conjunction with a host of other chronic health issues, can be more successfully managed through the help of a home healthcare provider like Home Sweet Home In-Home Care. Reach out to us at (269) 373-5444 in Kalamazoo, (269) 763-5350 in Paw Paw, (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph, or (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek to learn more about how we provide the kind of home care in Marshal and other Michigan communities. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.