How Hettie's helping people with Parkinson’s during the pandemic

Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 04/27/2021, 3:46 PM
Edited: 04/28/2021, 2:33 PM

(TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.) April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, but for Hettie Molvang, Parkinson's is always on her mind. 

"I'm at it 24/7," Molvang said. "My mornings start around 5:00."

Molvang is in her early nineties and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. 

She used to be a nurse and taught nursing at Northwestern Michigan College. 

While she was teaching she noticed there was only a half page in the textbook dedicated to talking about Parkinson's and that sparked her curiosity. 

"I began to really go to work and learn about Parkinson's and research and everything that was going on and I've been imbibed with it ever since," said Molvang.

Molvang currently serves as the director for Parkinson's Network North. 

The pandemic has pushed PNN online, and Molvang adapted quickly. 

She spends her days making zoom and phone calls to people who are living with Parkinson's and their caregivers. 

"I have a list and I just make phone calls constantly, as often as I can do them through the month each month just to say hi and they all know they can call me anytime, they can zoom me anytime," said Molvang. 

Recently Molvang and other members of PNN were able to participate in the "Pick Up The Pace" class at Pace North. 

It's a class that's tailored to the needs of Parkinson's and involves integral voice exercise. 

But most of the interaction over the last year has been virtual or remote and Molvang says that's created challenges for people living with Parkinson's. 

"It's the isolation," said Molvang. "It seems to have brought on their later symptoms earlier."

Some of those symptoms are joint pain, difficulty swallowing, a lack of an arm swing while walking, and a softer voice. 

With limited in person contact, Molvang and her group have come up with creative ways to use their vocal chords during the pandemic. 

"I happen to have a very long driveway and they'll park, some will park kind of horizontally and we'll get out of the car, get on the telephone and I'd go out on to my porch and they wave and I wave and we talk on the phone," said Molvang. 

Molvang says physical movement is another thing people with Parkinson's need to do. 

"If you tell me about a fun ad you watched on television I'm gonna be upset because I do not want you watching the commercials, you're up walking during commercials," said Molvang. 

She's also learned how use zoom rooms during the pandemic. 

That's how she plans to host the summer forum on May 25th and 26th in a virtual format. 

But for now, she'll keep making sure the people in Parkinson's Network North and their caregivers have the support they need. 

"They need someone's who's gonna be their life jacket that will tell them what is it you can expect, what can you do," said Molvang. 

If you would like more information about Parkinson's Network North or the summer forum you can go to their website at: 


Ann Marie Worthley
05/20/2021, 4:05 PM

Great Story!!