David Fitzgerald was a teacher, orator, nurseryman, cricket fanatic, bush-walker, traveler and IT-guru. He was a larger-than-life character with a wicked sense of humor and a huge range of interests. He was a man of hope, determination, and intense curiosity.
In 2014, David was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). PSP is somewhat like Parkinson’s disease, but if you had a choice between Parkinson’s or PSP, you’d pick Parkinson’s any time. The word progressive in PSP means what it says. It is a very very nasty neurodegenerative disorder. There is no known treatment.
By the time David and Helen met Catherine in July 2016, his resonant voice had been quietened, his vision was impaired, he had difficulty using his hands and his handwriting had become cramped and squashed. David had been having falls and he found it difficult to maintain balance and he had a persistent cough that could erupt and be very distressing to him and those around him. Sleeping was very difficult, so he always felt tired. Previously a passionate reader, he had long stopped reading books.
David and Helen heard about the red lights from his treating specialist, Dr Frank Nicklason. Dr Frank had made no promises, and there was no knowledge about the likely effect of trans-cranial red and near infrared lights on people with PSP. David was determined to give it a go, and so he did.
Catherine used an op-shop lampshade as the base for his device, and put red and near infrared LED strips into it. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
David started using it along with an intranasal device twice-daily.
David also started keeping immaculate records about his experience with the lights, quizzing people around him for their comments and observations. These records have been extraordinarily helpful in understanding whether trans-cranial red and near infrared light can improve symptoms in people with PSP.
Before David, we didn’t know.
So what happened?
David recorded a range of improvements – in speech and swallowing, in walking and balance, in the use of his hands and in handwriting and in mood. His visual problems reduced and he started reading books again. The one symptom that didn’t seem to change was the sleeping.
To try to obtain objective measurements, David provided monthly writing samples. These were analyzed by Prof John Mitrofanis’s team at the University of Sydney and published, along with symptom summaries in case reports in peer-reviewed journals.
David’s doctor commented that it now looked like David had “PSP-lite”. His disease progression further, seemed to have slowed down.
Because of David, we now know that it can improve symptoms, and we are increasingly convinced that daily trans-cranial lights can slow the progression of the disease. We learned this from one year of David’s meticulous record-keeping, and his determination to help others learn from his experience.
David developed a very aggressive cancer unrelated to PSP, and he died on 4 July 2017.
In his almost-71 years, David had influenced thousands of young people through his energetic teaching and love of life.
In the last year of his life, David Fitzgerald influenced the lives of many more by providing the very first evidence of real hope for a safe and practical treatment to slow the progression of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.
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