Being able to do what you love is important when faced with a life-changing condition. Regaining the ability to draw was a big step for achitect, Stephen, diagnosed with Parkinson's and incorrectly medicated. After a consultation with the Brain and Mind Centre led to a more effective treatment plan, Stephen has regained everyday use of his left hand.
If you ask someone what do architects do, they will most probably say plan and draw ideas for new buildings. Imagine if, as a senior architect, you found yourself losing this skill. Having prided himself on his ability to draw straight lines for the previous 20 years, that’s the position that Stephen found himself in after his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, 10 years ago.
“I had trouble writing my signature at first, that’s when I knew there was something wrong,” recalls Stephen. “It took six months for neurologists to agree on my diagnosis, and they confirmed my worst fears.” His first neurologist started with traditional drugs, and then later prescribed him a new skin patch, which removes the need to take oral medication. However, as is often the case with Parkinson’s, Stephen found his condition was beginning to worsen. “By 2012 I found myself having to retire from work because I was basically getting to work, doing a couple of hours work, sleeping during my lunch break, and almost sleeping all afternoon - I was just tired all the time. On top of that, Parkinson’s was in my left hand, I started to lose the fine motor control that I needed to draw,” explains Stephen. To counter this effect, Stephen completely rearranged his office so he could use his equipment with his right hand.
Then one afternoon, driving home from a friend’s wedding, Stephen fell asleep at the wheel of his car and crashed into a parked SUV. “Thankfully nobody was hurt, but I could have killed my wife. I could have killed other people, let alone myself.” He decided that the extreme tiredness he was experiencing had to be addressed. He turned to the Brain and Mind Centre to perform a sleep study. While at the Centre, he met Professor Simon Lewis, who he knew from taking part in previous research studies.
Professor Lewis quickly recognised that the issue did not lie with Stephen’s sleeping pattern and adjusted his medications. Much of Professor Lewis' research has focused on understanding the wide variability in symptoms that exists across patients with Parkinson's. By applying his research findings to his clinical practice and adopting a holistic approach, Professor Lewis was able to dramatically improve Stephen's symptoms.
“The change was almost instantaneous,” smiles Stephen. “I then felt I was not under medicated as I had previously felt, my facial animation returned, my hands and arms are usable, my drowsiness disappeared, I was able to drive again, and I was able to draw again.”
This return of ability has allowed Stephen to go back to doing some of the little things he loves. “I was able to start drawing small jobs privately. I make small-scale model ships, including miniature figures, and I radio control and sail them, and I can do all that with my left hand and that pleases me. I play tennis, I ride my bike, and I look after my little grandchild.”
Stephen believes that the level of attention and care offered by the Brain and Mind Centre is what sets it apart from other care providers. “Simon and his team do fantastic work, and I feel happy I was able to repay him by awarding him the Pride of Workmanship awards through my Rotary Club. This award is for someone who goes above and beyond – I couldn’t think of anyone better to give it to than Simon.”
The change was almost instantaneous. I felt I was not under-medicated as I had previously felt, my facial animation returned, my hands and arms were usable, my drowsiness disappeared, I was able to drive again and I was able to draw again.