Parkinson's Patient Deals With Disability With New Invention
Posted January 25, 2006 8:07 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Mike Tucker is a big guy who loves protecting others. At the 1996 Olympics, he was a bodyguard for Michael Jordan, Mary Lou Retton and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
"I was a police officer, in the gym six days a week, rode a bike 40 miles on the weekend, and I could bench press 350 pounds," said Tucker.
But not anymore. While working at the Olympics, Tucker realized something was wrong.
"I noticed when I was there, my left side got a lot weaker," he said.
Next Step Website
At 40, Tucker developed Parkinson's disease -- a disease that would slowly kill his muscles.
"Every day, you get worse than the day before," he said.
He was forced to retire and now works in his wood shop. Tucker was doing OK until one day he and his family went out for lunch.
"My legs wouldn't take me where I wanted them to, and I was leaning on the chairs and watching my family sit there and watch me," said Tucker. "It was pretty heartwrenching to see them watch me try to get to the table. I was determined at that point I was going to do something about that."
That something was his patented invention called the Next Step. He took a cane and added a small lever that flips out to the side when the cane is pressed down and falls back into place when the pressure is released, allowing the eyes to trick the brain.
"I'm not able to move hardly at all," said Tucker. "But if I use this cane and I have an obstacle, I can step over it and get the next foot up there."
Now at age 50, Tucker's hands and legs still quiver, but he is able to walk -- all because he refused to give up.
"The cane really is like a miracle for me," he said.
Before Parkinson's, Tucker spent his adult life helping people. He hopes his invention will allow him to again help others. For more information about Next Step, call