Local women raising Parkinson’s awareness

Sayreville residents Rose McTiernan (l) and Claire Salamon accept a proclamation from Mayor Kennedy O'Brien during the April 10 meeting of the Borough Council. Sayreville residents Rose McTiernan (l) and Claire Salamon accept a proclamation from Mayor Kennedy O’Brien during the April 10 meeting of the Borough Council. SAYREVILLE – A proclamation from Mayor Kennedy O’Brien declaring April Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month brought special meaning to two borough residents in particular.

Rose McTiernan and Claire Salamon, both living with Parkinson’s, were on hand for the presentation and are hopeful it helps to raise awareness of the disease and the need for further funding and research.

McTiernan, 55, knows all too well how PD, a progressive disorder of the central nervous system, can affect one’s life, both for better and worse.

“It has made me literally stop and smell the flowers,” she said, noting that it’s people themselves who are important, not the things that may affect them. “I also think my PD brings the good out of people.”

McTiernan was diagnosed while in her last semester toward a master’s degree in public administration at Kean College, Union.

“Of course I finished with all A’s!” she noted.

She worked at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick as senior management assistant in the Office of the Dean from 1997-2004, when she went out on disability.

McTiernan participates whenever possible with the New Jersey chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association (APDA). She has a husband, Michael. Her daughters Jennifer, 28, who has a husband, Elijah Huge, and their child, Reah, 2; and Melissa, 26, both live in New Haven, Conn.

Salamon, a lifelong Sayreville resident, has long been an advocate for those with Parkinson’s. In 1997, she lobbied in Washington, D.C., for the passage of the Mo Udall bill, named for the Arizona congressman who served from 1961-90 but was forced to retire due to PD. The bill provided funding for research and a mechanism for the science community to make progress toward finding a cure.

Since 1998, Salamon has volunteered annually at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York, and has been a regular speaker at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, where she provides students with a patient’s perspective on the doctor-patient relationship on those with chronic diseases.

Salamon, now first vice president of the New Jersey APDA chapter, received the first Excellence in Service award in 2004 from the APDA and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

“Basically, I’m a happy person. I learned this from my mom – she always smiles,” Salamon said. Her mother, Jean Chunco, has mild PD. “She has the energy of a 50-year-old, and on March 29 she celebrated her 89th birthday.”

Salamon – who has a husband, Fred, a son, Eric, 35, of San Francisco, his fianc, Julia Conner; and a daughter Susan, 33, of Sayreville – is taking her situation day by day.

“As my PD progresses, I honestly don’t know how I will feel about it tomorrow,” she said. “But for today, I’ll take my meds on time and hope that they work.”

Both Salamon and McTiernan were pleased with the quaint ceremony at borough hall last week. The proclamation acknowledges the efforts of the APDA in raising funds and promoting awareness to fight Parkinson’s and improve the quality of life for those living with the disease.

“I hope this raises public awareness about the disease,” McTiernan said. “This is a big step, and we can thank Claire for her hard work in getting this resolution.”