Not long ago Norman physician Nicole Jarvis delivered more babies in Norman than any other obstetrician-gynecologist. Jarvis — who considered deliveries the best part of her job, and not once minded middle-of-the-night arrivals — was delivering 35 to 40 babies every month. That's nearly double what her peers were averaging.
But Jarvis, 44, closed the door on birthing rooms a year ago, and operating rooms a few months before.
She had to — for her patients' safety and for her own health.
“I never wanted to potentially put one patient in harm's way,” said Jarvis, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease six years ago, after experiencing stiffness, imbalance, sleeplessness, tremors in her hands, and other classic symptoms.
“The further my disease progressed, the less reliable my medications became,” she said.
“I was having to set my alarm for every three hours to take my meds, just in case I was called in to deliver a baby,” she said. “I was never getting enough sleep and not enough sleep and stress can make Parkinson's symptoms worse.”
Despite the changes to her practice, Jarvis is as busy as ever. She still provides office gynecologic exams, with a passion for caring for teens. She's a single mom to very active, soon-to-be 10-year-old identical twin boys. And she heads her own nonprofit: the Nicole Jarvis, MD, Parkinson's Research Foundation Inc.
Shortly after her diagnosis, Jarvis felt compelled to do something about the disease.
“I wanted to find a purpose in the devastation, face the disease head-on and find better solutions faster,” she said.
Jarvis phoned the Michael J. Fox Foundation and, to her surprise, found there were no Team Fox fund-raising events in Oklahoma or adjacent states. Jarvis subsequently has given Parkinson's a face in the Midwest. The incurable degenerative neurological disease affects some 15,000 Oklahomans; 1 million Americans; 5 million worldwide.
Jarvis sponsored her first winter gala dinner and auction in December 2012, hoping to raise $10,000. Instead, she raised more than $115,000 and, with this past December's annual event, her nonprofit has surpassed more than $1 million in donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
“What's amazing is we've done it all with volunteers and without any paid employees,” Jarvis said. “And literally 100 percent of that money is used to fund the research we need to find better treatments and ultimately a cure.”
The Embassy Suites, Blu restaurant, Redbud Floral and numerous other Norman businesses have donated services; what minimal expenses the foundation has, Jarvis covers personally.
The Jarvis Foundation also has donated more $75,000 to the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma to fund local support services for patients and their families, such as education classes, exercise therapy, voice therapy and support groups.