Huntington's film could come to Cd'A

Post Falls family copes with rare brain disease

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Nila and Bob McCuiag share a moment with Bob's service dog, 6-year-old golden lab Exeter, in their Post Falls home Sunday. Bob was diagnosed with Huntington's disease in 2007. Nila said she feels that Exeter's companionship provides comfort and relieves stress Bob experiences from the disease. She is working on bringing "Alive and Well," a documentary about HD, to Coeur d'Alene to help educate people about the condition.

POST FALLS - Bob McCuaig and his golden lab Exeter are the best of friends. Exeter will fetch McCuaig a soda from the fridge, the newspaper from the porch and the phone from the charger.

He's not just McCuaig's friend. He's also his service animal.

McCuaig, 50, of Post Falls, was diagnosed with Huntington's disease in 2007.

"Oct. 19 of '07 the world stopped turning for us," said Nila McCuaig, Bob's wife of 29 years.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a genetic brain disorder that affects the mind and body, with symptoms ranging from personality and mood changes to slurred speech, involuntary movements and difficulty swallowing, according to www.hdsa.org.

"There's so many things about the disease that go with it," Bob said. "It's a very sad and strange disease."

Each HD case is different. Bob's frontal lobe has been the main area affected, making daily capabilities difficult. And only about 30,000 people in the country have it, while many may confuse its symptoms with those related to Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

That's why Nila, 47, is determined to bring awareness of HD to North Idaho. She found the opportunity to educate people about it through a special documentary titled "Alive and Well," which follows the lives of seven people touched by HD in some way.

The catch is, she needs 100 people to buy tickets to the film before it can be shown in a Coeur d'Alene theater. As of Sunday afternoon, 62 tickets were reserved, but still that leaves 38.

"I don't want people to feel sorry for us," she said. "I just want to reach their hearts."

Nila has requested the film through Gathr Films' website. All of the tickets must be reserved by midnight Jan. 9 for the film to play in Riverstone Stadium 14 at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23.

"Really, Huntington's disease has so many layers to it," Nila said. "It affects every single part of your life, and I think this documentary will touch on a lot of different lives and how they're affected."

Nila said she wants to reach out to members of the community to come see the documentary, including law enforcement officials who may mistakenly arrest an HD patient, and other families that are experiencing the devastating disease.

Nila said her family has received lots of goodwill from the community, with friends pitching in to help build their home and Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, Calif., donating Exeter to Bob.

And although living with HD can be a struggle, the love that binds the McCuaigs is strong and evident.

"It will seem like a storm that never ends," she said. "But, for our family, there was a day that I used to think if I ever did a story on this disease, that's what I would call it. But today I wouldn't call it that. I would call it the care that never ends."

Tickets to see "Alive and Well" are $10.50. Proceeds will be donated to Factor H, HD Buzz and Huntington's Disease Society of America. Info: https://gathr.us/screening/6508

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