Beer, Whisky, Chocolate and Parkinson’s

There are currently 127,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the UK, and the number is expected to rise 28% by 2020.

One person is diagnosed with the disease every hour in the UK.

Early diagnosis can be key to keeping the worst symptoms at bay; however, many of the early signs can be mistaken for other conditions.

Darryl Foxwell was ­diagnosed 14 years ago.

He had been suffering from hand tremors and foot cramps for three years and his handwriting had been getting smaller, a common warning sign of Parkinson’s, but his problems were initially put down to stress.

When he was diagnosed in 2000 he refused to give up the job he loved as a manager in the civil engineer industry until he was finally forced to call it a day in April last year.

Darryl, 64, says: “I had a fantastic boss and I worked with the condition for 12 years.  The company doctor told me you can either give up your job now and go with dignity, or they’ll have to tap you on the shoulder and say, ­‘Darryl, your work’s not up to ­standard, you’d better go’.

“I couldn’t write or carry things in my right hand.

“If I went down a corridor I froze at a corner because I couldn’t turn.

“I didn’t want to leave work but I had to be realistic.”

Parkinson’s is a ­progressive condition, but it develops at a different rate in each patient.  It is difficult to diagnose and in Darryl’s case it took 4 years.

He takes 12 pills per day as well as an additional pill if he is out past 10pm.  The most distressing aspect of the illness for Daryl is that he can no longer write and often his body freezes meaning he can’t move.  Daryl has found some odd side effects with the pills.  He finds if he eats certain foods like a bacon sandwich, the pills don’t work properly.  Luckily ‘beer, whisky and chocolate’ don’t affect his medication!

Daryl says “it is vital to support research into Parkinson’s; there are so many disorders of the brain.”

Daryl has three grown children and one grandchild; he lives with his wife in Morley, Leeds.  He has found exercise such as Pilates and working on his allotment a godsend. Thanks to the Leed’s Parkinson’s nurse and the Leeds Parkinson’s physio, he has found a number of exercises, including daily use of the Nintendo Wii fit, helps him to keep upright, able to walk better and generally in better health.  In addition, going to a ‘one to one’ Pialtes teacher in North Leeds has given him an exercise regime that has worked wonders.

He also plays the drums and build’s and exhibits model railways to keep his hands active.

Darryl says “I am very scared about the future, in some respects all of us have no control over the future anyway, but I do feel scared in myself.  There is no instruction manual given to you on diagnosis.  I am hoping in the immediate future that research can find better medicines and I would urge people to support the Yorkshire Brain Research Centre; to help find better diagnosis, better treatment and better outcomes for people like me.”