dwight campbell

Former County Clerk Dwight Campbell talks about a commentary he recently completed on the Biblical book of Revelation.

From 1979 to 1996, if you bought a piece of property or got married in Shelby County, you knew his name.

Dwight Campbell was County Clerk for 18 years and his signature appeared all land deeds, marriage licenses and permits. An unfortunate turn of events forced him to leave his position early. But the cloud had a silver lining, leading Campbell to explore his talent in writing.

With an initial symptom of tremor in his right hand, Campbell soon became faced with the startling revelation that he had Parkinson’s disease, first diagnosed in 1986. With medication, Campbell was able to maintain his position for an additional ten years. But as the medication became less effective, he was forced to take early retirement at the age of 56, leaving the courthouse desk in 1996. Although Campbell has been sidelined he is certainly not out of the game, and has recently finished a commentary on the Biblical book of Revelation, regarded as one of the more complex texts of the Bible.

Campbell’s religious roots go back to his boyhood days. He writes in the introduction of his book, “My father and mother were both students of the Bible, although they only had an eighth grade education. My father taught an adult Sunday School class at our little church. He took the job very seriously…he always seemed to enjoy reading God’s Word, especially the book of Revelation. It was frequently discussed in our home”

After a tour with the military, Campbell returned to Shelbyville, married Anita, and started teaching Sunday School as his father had. But eventually, Parkinson’s made it too difficult for him to continue. Campbell looked for another avenue of self-expression.

Campbell turned his attentions to writing, but he found his handwriting had been reduced to a scrawl. Anita, his wife of 41 years took note of the changes in his penmanship. “He had such a nice handwriting before, but with the Parkinson’s his writing now is very small.” That is when Campbell found an ally in the computer. He spent one-and-a-half years on the 40-page discourse, working at the times he was at his best.

“With the computer I can peck out what I want to say and go back and change it if I need to,” said Campbell. He completed his commentary on Revelation in March of this year. “I had about 25 or 30 printed out and most are gone now.”

Campbell still struggles with words but is able to have clear bursts for several sentences. His gait is slower but fairly steady and his handshake is still solid. He still drives in town some, but sticks to daytime hours.

Campbell recalled, “It got to where I was having trouble with Dyskinesia, involuntary body movements. It usually starts on one side and moves to the other.” Initially, medication effectively controlled the tremors. Campbell said, “That was the best period I have had with this. People couldn’t even tell I had it.” But after time, the tremors resurfaced and caused Campbell much discomfort and loss of sleep.

Finally, in 1997, Campbell went in for a delicate surgery called a Pallidotomy. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The surgery is delicate and exacting. To do it safely, the neurosurgeon must know precisely where to make the lesion. Being off by only a few hair widths can cause visual loss or paralysis. To make absolutely sure they have the right spot, they insert a fine probe, thin as a strand of hair. Doctors painstakingly find the area of the brain that controls the arm, leg or face movements and then tailor the surgery to the area that gives the patient the most problems.”

Campbell came out of the surgery with some big improvements. The tremors were reduced and he could sleep at night again. But Campbell is aware of what he has. “Parkinson’s is a progressive disease. I recovered from that (surgery) pretty well then my left side began acting up again. But the procedure is far too risky to chance a second time.”

This has Campbell standing at a crossroads. Gene therapy is the latest treatment on the horizon, but, as Campbell said, “It is too new. Nobody knows what the long-term outcome of this is going to be.”

Another option Campbell has considered is deep-brain stimulation. “It is sort of like a pacemaker in your brain,” said Campbell. “They insert a probe into the deep brain recesses and it works as a stimulator or interruptor of brain signals, relaxing the symptoms of Parkinson’s.” But Campbell is concerned with some of the adverse side effects from that procedure as well, citing that the probe must be frequently adjusted and that sometimes the brain signals can ‘freeze’ causing the user to fall or become temporarily immobile.

For right now, Campbell is playing a wait-and-see game, keeping his eyes and ears open for new developments and medications. Until then, he is content with his writing and making do.

Campbell said his inspiration for writing a bible commentary came from personal reasons. “I sort of feel like the Lord has given me the insight to write this book. My hope is that Christians might read it and be encouraged in their faith and understanding of the Bible. For those who have never read the Bible, this book might lead them to Christ and an understanding of end-times prophecy. I hope this will be a motivational book for all.”

Through it all, Campbell has not lost his sense of humor. His next project will be an autobiography to pass along to his two daughters, Karen and Marsha, and son, Kevin. Campbell said his introduction will begin with, “I came from my mother and father.”

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