FREE TO READ: Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease

By Lucy Butler

MICHAEL J Fox, Muhammad Ali and Billy Connolly.

Fox is well recognised for his acting.

Ali is well known for his career in boxing and being the greatest boxer of all time.

Connolly is famous for his stand-up comedy.

They all have one thing in common; they live with the same disease called Parkinson’s.

I suppose you want to know why I am so interested in this topic.

Well let me offer you another name, my dad Graeme “Fred” Butler.

My dad is just an ordinary person who works and lives on a farm.

In September, 2012, my dad was lying on a hospital bed in Adelaide with his index finger shaking, wondering what it could be.

The doctor came in and told him he had young onset Parkinson’s disease.

This was a big shock to all of us, since there was no family history of this disease.

This was the start of a completely new journey for my family.

Parkinson’s is not a common disease found in young people, but in my dad’s case it is as he is 49.

Parkinson’s disease affects the way you move. It happens when there is a problem with a certain nerve in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain and people with Parkinson’s lack it.

This chemical stimulates the nerves.

Sufferers of Parkinson’s have to take tablets that help supply enough dopamine in their brain.

Everyone is unique when it comes to their symptoms of Parkinson’s, although there are a few which are common to most people such as: shaking, stiff muscles, slow movement, slurred speech, problems with balance and walking, struggles with swallowing food and loss in sense of smell.

Parkinson’s is also a disease there is no cure for, you progressively get worse over time.

Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure that is performed on some patients.

As patients worsen over time, their doctors recommend they receive this operation.

However, it is not common for young people to receive this, but if they have reached their limit of tablets, it is advised.

They could start to sound like a baby rattle.

While in surgery, the patients head is cut open so that special wires can be connected to a pacemaker in their chest.

The doctors then cut a pocket in to the patient’s chest to put the pacemaker in.

If any patient were to turn off their pacemaker, they would probably feel like they are riding a mechanical bull.

I would also like to talk about the pros and cons of living with this terrible disease.

Every day is a new day and something that every patient looks forward to.

We try to make this stupid disease as easy and enjoyable for my dad as possible, we are always making jokes when we are out on a drive saying “I think we need a wheel alignment” and then we realise it is just dad shaking the wheel.

When we visited dad after he came out of surgery, we walked into the room and took a step back as we thought we had just walked into a vet clinic, but no, dad had just grown ‘horns’.

Then dad told us the story of how he got his horns, they had to drill into the left and right side of his brain.

This procedure was performed with a medical drill.

While dad was lying there and coming to, he could smell something burning, they then told him the drill had just burnt out trying to drill through his skull.

Dad said to them “maybe you should have used a Makita”.

While researching about Michael J Fox’s experience with Parkinson’s, I found this quote that he referenced.

“It’s not like I take two pills and then at 10am I take another two. It really depends on what chemicals are brewing in my brain that day.”

Since having the surgery on August 8, 2014 my dad has improved slightly.

No one knows what makes the nerve cell break down, but scientists are doing lots of research to find the answer.

80,000 Australians are living with Parkinson’s.

My family hopes that scientists will soon find a cure for this disease to help everyone living with Parkinson’s, especially my dad.

Over the years, my dad has seen Michael J Fox as a role model and would really like to meet him one day in the future.

One of dad’s everyday quotes is “people with Parkinson’s do not stir their drinks, they shake their drinks”.

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