Parkinson's not the worst

Christine and Murray Rose, at their home in Waitahuna yesterday. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Christine and Murray Rose, at their home in Waitahuna yesterday. Photo by Helena de Reus.
If he had to get a neurological condition, Parkinson's disease was probably the best one to get, former MP Murray Rose says, 12 years after his diagnosis.

Mr Rose, who lives at Waitahuna with wife Chris, said his condition was not a death sentence - "it's a condition you die with, not die of".

His first realisation something was not right was when he was sitting in a theatre in London in the late 1990s, feeling uncomfortable with pins and needles from the knees down.

"It occurred to me that I had felt that way before." He decided he was either poisoning himself in some way or lacking in something.

Some time later, he noticed a slight tremor and he "couldn't get to the doctor quickly enough".

He was initially diagnosed with non-essential tremor (also called essential tremor), a diagnosis later repeated, but he did not feel comfortable about it.

His reading suggested it could be Parkinson's and that was subsequently confirmed about two years later in 1999 when he was 60.

He likens the condition to having grey hair.

"Once you've got grey hair it doesn't come back blond."

Mr Rose, who was National MP for Otago Central from 1969 to 1972, said it was hard to differentiate between worsening Parkinson's symptoms and the effects of growing older.

In the time since his diagnosis, he had written a book about his life, More Than Meets The Eye. This endeavour involved help from friend Beverley Fraser and who also has Parkinson's, who did the initial typing of the manuscript.

He also continued overseeing his farm with the help of managers, and stayed as active as possible.

In June, the couple made the decision to lease their farm, Rutherglen, but they still live on the property where the Rose family have been since 1880.

He is still actively involved in his community, including work with the local Lions Club, choosing to be involved in projects which do not involve huge physical effort.

When the Otago Daily Times telephoned, the couple were getting ready for the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the discovery of gold in Waitahuna Gully.

Mr Rose said while the condition had slowed him down and everything took longer, "from my point of view it hasn't been too bad. I have had to accept the things I can't do".

He agreed there was a need to educate people more about the condition and that some people could jump to the erroneous conclusion that those with Parkinson's were feeble-minded.

Such assumptions tended not to bother him as much as it might some people and, because of his background, he was used to being in the public eye.

Mr Rose said he would want people newly diagnosed with the condition to be of good courage and not to believe the worst.

"You have still got a fair bit of future in front of you and it doesn't mean you don't have a contribution to make."

He praised the work of the Otago Parkinson's Society and field officer Paula Ryan in providing fellowship and support.

• November 1-7 is Parkinson's Awareness Week which will be marked in Dunedin by a sponsored walk in the St Clair area on November 6. The walk will be of varying distances up to 3km to suit the varying abilities of those participating.

The walk will begin at the St Clair Presbyterian Church in Albert St at 1.30 pm.

There will also be a church service at Mosgiel Presbyterian Church tomorrow at 10am.

Parkinson's disease

The facts

• One in 500 New Zealanders has the condition - about 10,000 people.
• About 235 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in Otago.
• It is a progressive neurological condition occurring when insufficient quantities of the chemical dopamine are produced by the brain.
• Many people with the condition are older than 65, but average age of diagnosis is 59.

Main motor symptoms
• Tremors (shaking)
• Stiffness and rigidity
• Slowness of movement
• Other symptoms can include changes in mood and anxiety, poor balance and altered speech.

Source: Parkinson's Society Otago




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