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Staying Upbeat Anthony Thanasayan (TheStar Newspaper) - 5 April 2012

Thursday April 5, 2012

Staying upbeat

Parkinson's patients come together in a celebration of life.

THEY arrived in impressive numbers: people in wheelchairs, wheeled in by their caregivers; others with walking difficulties aided by family members. This despite the fact that they are forced to live with an insidious disease called Parkinson's. However, they were not there to express fear or defeat.

Rather, their coming together was to declare victory over a disease that haunts them, with hopes that a cure will be found one day. I was thrilled to be among the crowd of about 200 who turned up at the Petaling Jaya Civic Centre in Selangor last Sunday to celebrate World Parkinson's Day. The event was jointly organised by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA). World Parkinson's Day is commemorated on April 11 around the world every year. MBPJ is believed to be the first local government authority to offer support for Parkinson's awareness in the country.

Some love and affection: Parkinson's patients discover the therapeutic power of art during the World Parkinson's Day celebrations.

In her speech, MPDA president Sara Lew called on more government agencies to follow MBPJ's fine example of caring for its residents.

In MBPJ's technical committee on disablity, Lew represents people living with Parkinson's.

"It is estimated that 1 in every 500 Malaysians have Parkinson's disease," said Lew. "Given our current population, this means about 60,000 Malaysians live with Parkinson's. With our ageing population, the number can only get bigger, not smaller."

An estimated 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson's, a progressively degenerative neurological disorder which affects the control of body movements.

"Parkinson's effects on its victims in the long term will lead to huge social and economic costs for the community and the nation as a whole and this is why it is imperative for the relevant authorities to address the issue," said Lew, whose late father had Parkinson's.

Lew thanked the Government for finally recognising Parkinson's as a disability last year. The move has allowed people living with Parkinson's to enjoy social and medical benefits like other disabled persons.

In his address, Selangor state executive councillor Dr Xavier Jayakumar, who was the guest of honour, stressed that more red tape needs to be removed by the authorities when helping Parkinson's patients and other disabled persons. "Everyone needs to recognise the indispensible role that caregivers play in caring for disabled people," he said, adding that the country is rich enough to ensure that people who need special help get the assistance they need. Dr Xavier pledged a sum of RM10,000 to MPDA to help them in their cause.

The event was also marked by various activities. There was a song presentation by MPDA members. An art therapy corner was set up for Parkinson's patients to discover their artistic talents.

The highlight of the day was the signing of the Global Parkinson's Pledge to combat the disease. The pledge was launched at the 2nd World Parkinson's Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, two years ago. Its aim is to build a global Parkinson's movement to make Parkinson's a priority health, social and economic issue around the world. I was awed by one of the Parkinson's patients I met at the event. He could no longer move around with the help of a walking stick, and had to use a wheelchair. However, he flashed me a big, infectious smile when I enquired about his health.

"I'm still very much alive. See you again next year!" he quipped.

For more information on Parkinson's, call the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (03-79806685) or visit (

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