Love, Laughter and Determination in Sickness and in Health

Meet Carol and Clyde Cressler

After 57 years of marriage, Carol and Clyde Cressler of Mechanicsburg know how to bring out the best in one another. They laugh at each other’s jokes, share similar passions and take on life’s challenges as a team. When Clyde was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 55, Carol became his advocate, learning everything she could about the disorder. With the help of caregivers, including Homeland Hospice, Clyde is managing his disease and finds happiness in the small blessings of life.

“My wife can do anything,” Clyde says with a smile. “Sometimes all at once.”

Carol and Clyde met while pursing degrees in elementary education at Shippensburg University. After college, Carol taught at Shaull Elementary School and Clyde taught at Sporting Hill. After several years, Clyde returned to college and earned his pharmacy degree. He went on to create Care Capital Management, a pharmaceutical company, which owned and operated 18 Medicine Shoppe pharmacies in the region. They sold the business in 2021.

The couple’s life plans changed when Clyde was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1998 not long after he had heart surgery. Parkinson’s causes some brain cells to die, particularly those making dopamine. The impacted brain cells help control movement and coordination. While tremors are common, the disorder also causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Clyde’s greatest struggles involve walking and stiffness in his legs. While there is no cure for the disease, medications and movement can help with treatment.

After the couple learned of Clyde’s diagnosis, they joined support groups, attended conferences and connected with a medical team committed to Clyde’s treatment. At one conference, they met Michael J. Fox, actor, author and advocate for Parkinson’s disease.

Carol keeps a photo of the actor taken with her and Clyde on the outside of one of her many binders. The binders include flyers of events, medical notes and her personal research meticulously organized to chronicle Clyde’s treatment.

“When your spouse has a disease you have it too,” Carol says. “We promised in our wedding vows to support one another in sickness and in health.”

Ten years ago, Carol began leading a local support group for families impacted by Parkinson’s disease. Through the group, Carol has developed friendships with other caregivers.

“It is comforting to be around people who understand what we are going through,” Carol says. “I don’t know what I would do without their support.”

In 2015, Clyde had Deep Brain Surgery (DBS), which inserts electrodes into a targeted area of the brain and an impulse generator battery (like a pacemaker) in the chest. The impulse generator battery provides an electrical impulse to a part of the brain involved in motor function.

To further help delay the disease by keeping Clyde’s body in motion; the couple has taken dance classes at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Lemoyne. Despite Clyde’s illness he learned to tango, waltz, rumba and swing dance. Clyde also practiced boxing through Rock Steady Boxing, which helps people with Parkinson’s improve their flexibility and range of motion.

In late 2019 into early 2020, Clyde began experiencing delusions. Following a series of medical issues and hospitalizations, Clyde’s doctors took him off his Parkinson’s medications, which were causing the delusions. While one component of his health was treated, Clyde’s ability to move became far more challenging requiring additional assistance.

Carol connected with the team at Homeland Hospice to provide additional care to meet Clyde’s changing circumstances. The Homeland teams includes a registered nurse case manager, hospice medical director, attending physician, volunteer coordinator, social workers, counselors, home health aides, and others. All team members are patient and family-focused, allowing Clyde and Carol to be in control at all times.

While Clyde and Carol look forward to their regular appointments with the Homeland team, they are delighted by visits from Reynaldo (Rey) Villarreal, chaplain for Homeland Hospice who shares his love of music through singing and playing his guitar.

“We both love music,” Carol says. “Rey plays the guitar and sings beautifully which lifts both our spirits.”

In the coming days, Clyde will have his first therapeutic massage provided by Homeland.

“We’re very grateful for the Homeland team,” Carol adds. “They care about the well-being of both of us.”

Among their many daily visits from caregivers, family and friends, Carol and Clyde find comfort and happiness from their children and grandchildren along with their dog Honey who keeps a loving and watchful eye over Clyde.

“To find contentment while battling a disease is to admit acceptance,” Carol says. “This is just one season in our life together.”

Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.