A diagnosis of Parkinson’s is a terrible shock and different people react in different ways. Some will begin to hide away and have less and less social interaction. The problems that can come with the illness, such as less mobility, a quieter voice or tiredness, make everything you do just a little bit more difficult. However, seeing friends, exercising and generally going out and about can really help.
Once I knew that I would be in Australia for 6 months helping with baby Henry I decided that I needed to have activities that I could do which would involve meeting new people and keeping reasonably fit. I was lucky enough to find a Dance for Parkinson’s class in Melbourne and have enjoyed meeting a new group of people all coping with similar problems to my own. I know how beneficial I have found my Pilates classes so have joined a mat class which is held just 10 minutes walk away; I seem to be the oldest there! A walking group meets locally and I walk with them once a week plus daily walks pushing the pram keeps things moving. I have been lucky enough to be invited to join a book club with a great group of local ladies; I just have to find time to read the books. The local library is very helpful and I have managed to borrow the chosen texts. Initially the first few meetings with each group have been quite nerve wracking but it has got easier and more enjoyable as time has passed. I have realised that I rely on others more than I used to and will need to be careful to be as independent as possible.
This month has seen the lovely daughter, Henry and myself head up to Sydney to introduce him to friends there and give us an idea of travelling with a baby. I am a nervous flyer and very anxious at airports so the lovely daughter had to cope with everything from prams to hiring a car, she did well. We spent a day in the city and pushed the baby through the Botanical Gardens, always a beautiful place to visit.
On Bronte beach, Sydney.
We also visited Palm Beach, a beautiful place where the television series “Home and Away” is filmed, simply stunning area. Filming was taking place while we were there.
Back in Melbourne for the last 6 weeks of my stay here. Baby Henry is now more than 4 kilos and delights us with chuckles and chats. Each week brings something new which is a privilege to see. Tiring, yes but worthwhile definitely!
Melbourne is warming up so I should have sunshine before joining winter in the UK
I have now been in Melbourne for more than three months helping my daughter with Handsome Henry, a baby born 8 weeks early. He has more than doubled his birth weight and is smiling and focusing well.
He is not very good at sleeping, colic does not help so we are out and about with an ergo baby carrier and, of course, a pram. One problem with Parkinson’s is that there is a tendency to lose your confidence and become very anxious about anything new. It is only the last few weeks that I have felt happy taking Henry out on my own and thus give the lovely daughter a bit of a break! I know all the smooth pavements and safe places to cross busy roads and have mastered the breaking system, it is quite a responsibility. He is very happy in a baby carrier but I am still a bit concerned that I might trip so only use that indoors, falling being an issue with many Parkinson’s sufferers. Spending time with a new baby though takes your mind off everything else. The amiable husband, now back in the UK, is busy rebooking my appointments with the Nurse and Consultant that I had to cancel when we dashed out here to see Henry.
I now have Wednesday as “staff” day off and have enjoyed travelling into the city by bus, train or tram to explore. I have been to the Dior exhibition, enjoyed an organ recital in St Paul’s Cathedral, visited the Botanical Gardens and used self guided walk notes to explore Melbourne. Next week I go to a recital by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. The lovely daughter has arranged a massage as a treat today, I have not been doing as much stretching as I do back home.
I go back to the UK mid December; will I have resisted the temptation for my voice to go up at the end of sentences like so many Australians!
I left England on June 20th with a three month supply of drugs for Parkinson’s, the most the NHS could give me. As more than two months had passed I thought it best to organise the next prescription here in Australia before it was needed. I take Dopamine, the gold star treatment for Parkinson’s, easy to get and not very expensive. I also take Rasagiline which may slow the progress of the illness, much more difficult to get out here and £2.90 a pill, staggering! I am grateful that back home I don’t pay anything for medication.
In Australia all those in close contact with babies are expected to have a whooping cough vaccination as there have been several outbreaks here with serious results. We tried to get one done in England before we left but were just told it was unnecessary so last week I ended up at a local Melbourne GP having mine done as I will be here some time, a stiff arm was the only side effect.
Henry is now home and Grandma and Grandpa duties are fully required from top up feeds to winding, and from huge amounts of washing and ironing to cooking nutritious meals, plus learning how to swaddle, sterilise and get to sleep. It is exhausting but wonderful, seeing this tiny little person changing every day and today I think I saw a proper SMILE! The lovely daughter has calmly and competently taken on the mothering role, even the exhausting night feeds! The dashing son has also arrived to get to know his nephew and looks fully at ease with him, happy to help with all the tasks, much appreciated.
Our concerns that we had never heard Henry cry have gone and now any silence we get is golden!
Melbourne has once again been named the World’s most liveable city by the Economist, despite the cost of prescription drugs!
Life Down Under has calmed down. Baby H, so tiny when born, has been making good progress and could soon be home. He has had wonderful care from the hospital where he was born and at a brand new neo natal unit where he initially had his own nurse! We are in a routine of chauffeuring the lovely daughter and visiting the tiny grandson for a daily cuddle.
I have been anxious to do more exercise and have now started a Pilates class. As there are only four or five in the group there’s not many places to hide! I have also joined a group that walk round the local park twice and then adjourn for a coffee. I was invited to go along to a book club earlier this week, interesting to see similarities and differences with the one I belong to in Sussex. Hopefully, with glorious walks along by the sea I am doing enough to help the Parkinson’s.
As I had missed my recent appointment with the Parkinson’s Nurse I emailed her asking for advice about the claw foot I get first thing in the morning. It is becoming rather a nuisance and it was good to share things with her and look at possible solutions. I was very impressed when she emailed me back the next day, brilliant service!
We have been back in Australia for nearly six weeks and there are many things that I love here,-
The friendliness of the people, always cheerful and ready to help, “no problem” is the common term used,
The coffee shops, Melburnians love their coffee,
Going to house auctions, real street theatre,
The excellent medical care.
I am not so smitten with:-
Graffiti; seems so much as you travel in towards the city centre,
Most houses only have showers; I love a soak in the bath,
Turning right at junctions – hook turns, U turns & turning in front of oncoming traffic rather than behind – unique to Melbourne!
Once H is home our days will change again as he settles into a life outside hospital. As all his energy has been going into feeding we have not yet heard him cry properly!
This month’s Blog will be brief, you will appreciate why!
The lovely daughter was expecting a baby in August and as there were signs it might be earlier we thought it best to start sorting out travel insurance, visas, etc, particularly as I will be staying in Australia for up to 6 months. Things were going well until I took my prescription for Parkinson’s drugs to the doctors surgery and asked for 6 months supply. After several trips to and fro the answer came back that under the NHS regulations three months is the maximum amount allowed. I will need to get a prescription from an Australian GP, I will take my UK one with me for evidence. So be wary if you are going to be away for a long time!
We had just got things sorted when the call came that we needed to be in Melbourne at once. We got flights the next day and got to the hospital as the Doctors announced they were going to deliver the baby immediately.
In my scrubs ready to go into theatre.
I was kitted up in scrubs and joined the lovely daughter as they performed an emergency Caesarian and baby Henry was born weighing a lightweight 1.67 kg. He is in a brand new neonatal unit where his lungs are being supported, he is improving steadily. The amiable husband is getting good at driving to and from hospital. It may be some weeks before the baby comes home.
As I will be in Melbourne for a while I am planning to join the Dance for Parkinson’s class again; they make me very welcome. I have had to miss my appointment with my lovely Parkinson’s Nurse at home and will have to creatively manage my “claw foot” which I get in the morning which possibly indicates that I am under medicated. If I put a lace up trainer on that foot it helps but it’s not very comfy in bed!
I look forward to my first months as a grandma and holding my new grandson.
My initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s was four and a half years ago when I was told that I had a dystonic presentation of the illness. This meant very little to me then but recently I have begun to realise that much of the problem with my left foot could probably be described as dystonia. First thing in the morning when I get out of bed the left foot turns into a claw, curling tightly under.
Left foot in the morning.
Walking on it is very difficult, helped only by putting my trainers on, some massaging and rolling with my spiky ball. This could possibly be due to under medication but as I am not in a rush to increase it I am seeing how much I can do to help myself. I read somewhere that potassium may be helpful so trying a banana with breakfast each morning. Sometimes, leading up to the next dosage of dopamine, the foot goes into spasm which makes my gait rather strange and uncomfortable. There are quite a few pairs of shoes in my wardrobe that I hardly wear! I am still managing to continue walking though and recently led a seven mile walk in countryside around the Bluebell Railway, very beautiful but quite hilly!
At the beginning of May we joined our Australian friends for a week on a canal boat on the Kennet and Avon Canal from Bradford on Avon to Bristol. Meandering slowly through the countryside was a great, very restful, experience and we found country pubs to moor up by in the evenings. We spent two nights right in the centre of the floating harbour in Bristol which enabled us to explore a city none of us knew, a visit to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain is certainly a must. The only aspect of the trip not so restful was the LOCKS. I was pleased that physically I could manage the winding up and down and pushing open 4 ton gates but I found I coped best if I could copy the person (usually the amiable husband) on the other side.
Opening the lock gates.
When it came to a flight of five locks at Bath I was only too happy for the volunteers to take over!
I think we all felt rather sad when the week ended
I have now been back from Australia for three weeks, jet lag has faded and I have adjusted from Autumn to Spring! The bluebells look stunning, walking through woods is such a pleasure.
Bluebells near Burgess Hill, Sussex.
Our local choir, the Good Vibrations, have just had their annual jazz evening and we were well supported by family and friends. We had seven songs, our most ever. The next day saw the beginning of Parkinson’s awareness week with the slogan “We won’t wait” (relating to the need for a cure) and a whole programme of events both local and national.
Last week a group of us went to see Symfunny at the Royal Albert Hall, a concert to raise funds to help with research into a cure for Parkinson’s. The main drug, Dopamine, for treating the condition, hasn’t changed for over 50 years and only masks the condition for a time and has lots of side effects.
Symfunny No2 at the Royal Albert Hall, London
We saw a whole range of performers from singer Katie Melua to comedians Jason Manford, Josh Widdicombe, Jack Dee and the “I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue” team, from Pete Townshend of the Who to singer Aled Jones. The comedy writer Paul Mayhew-Archer who wrote such sitcoms as “The Vicar of Dibley” and “Mrs Brown’s Boys” also made an appearance. Despite having had Parkinson’s for 5 years he continues to work hard and has been commissioned to write a romcom about romance blossoming in a Parkinson’s ballet class which made me chuckle! Saturday saw the summer term start at English National Ballet Dance for Parkinson’s , we are focusing on the “Rites of Spring” which is completely new to me.
At the beginning of May our Australian friends will join us for a week on a narrow boat travelling from Bradford on Avon through Bath to Bristol. We have never tried this kind of holiday before, lots to learn. If I am on lock duty I hope it is easier than it looks! Fingers crossed for some good weather.