Keith and his family at Disneyland
In 2000 my life was to change forever. This was the year that my now father-in-law had the official diagnosis for what he had thought for months was simply tennis elbow. It was confirmed to be Parkinson’s disease. While a very active middle-aged man, he had the usual aches and pains which he thought was a nod to his senior years. He wasn’t too concerned when the doctor sent him for blood tests, but when the results came in and the news sank in, Keith was shocked. He remembered the debilitated condition that Parkinson’s had left his Aunt back in the 1980s. Keith’s symptoms were different to his Aunt’s. He didn’t have the tremors and he wasn’t confined to a chair, plus the huge headway into treatment meant people could manage the condition and not just let it consume them. However, over time his life slowly became embroiled with tablet times and injections. Early retirement became necessary as the simple things turned out to be hard to do. Family holidays became less enjoyable as long-haul flights were difficult and long days out were gruelling. Life’s simple pleasures became a huge event and trips to the cinema weren’t fun anymore. Parkinson’s isn’t just a physical illness, but mentally and emotionally it changes you from a confident out-going person to someone who is self-conscious of facial features and you become a person who slowly loses self-esteem. In 2015 when the doctors at the QMC in Nottingham offered Keith a place on their ward for pioneering deep brain surgery, it came at a time when the tablets had stopped doing their job and freezing became more frequent. It wasn’t an immediate ‘yes let’s do this’ as we all thought long and hard about the surgery and how it would affect our lives. There were no quick fixes, no promises that surgery would give Keith his pre-diagnosis life back. The hope was to reduce the amount of tablets he needed to take daily and give him a more controlled comfortable life. With a strong supportive wife and family, a date was set for surgery. From that moment on I wanted to do my bit, show my support and educate my own young family that whatever life throws at you, approach it with a positive mental attitude. As Parkinson’s is a genetic illness, it kept me awake at night worrying for my own family’s future. I decided to see what I could do to contribute towards research and help beat Parkinson’s disease.
The spooky sprint in Nottingham, organised by Parkinson’s UK
I have been running for a few years now and wanted to put my hobby to good use. I decided to enter a 5k spooky sprint in Nottingham, organised by Parkinson’s UK. I also encouraged my young nephew to enter. We trained really hard and on the night of the event we were joined by friends and family who supported us on our dark and scary sprint. We manged to raise over £700 and Keith was overwhelmed. This year we all hope to take part in the family run event. I feel very lucky to be part of team Keith. The day arrived for Keith’s operation and he was wheeled down to theatre. The 12 hour operation was a complete success and he was discharged a day early. Following the operation Keith’s high spirits and positive attitude were infectious. Only a week post operation, life for Keith changed dramatically and he was able to reduce his tablet intake by more than half. He also felt stronger and empowered. Less tablets and injections was a huge weight lifted from his daily life. Once the medical team have balanced his dopamine levels in his brain, his tablets will be reduced further and life will be more comfortable to live. The medical team have been honest with Keith’s prognosis and he knows with the highs, there will be inevitable lows and eventually the freezing will come back gradually and the tablets will need to be prescribed once again, but this surgery will give him a glimpse of his old life and for a time he will walk tall, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his sons and maybe even beat his grandson at tennis!
My sporting spirit is just as alive and two weeks ago I registered for my first half marathon. My chosen charity is Parkinson’s UK. I want to give myself a goal and raise money for further research into the illness. I also want to show my children that keeping fit and active is a huge step in staying healthy. Additionally, my goal is to help educate people, so when they see a person with Parkinson’s disease they will be more aware of the symptoms; not stare at them or make the assumption that they are simply drunk. This year, World Parkinson’s Day falls during Parkinson’s Awareness Week today, on 11 April 2017, marking 200 years since it was first recognised as a medical condition. The campaign invites everyone around the world to raise awareness and share why you #UniteForParkinsons on your social media profiles. To find out more about the charity, please visit Parkinson’s UK.
Elaine, Volunteer Liaison Officer
Visit Elaine’s JustGiving page here.