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[back] Living with Parkinson's - Tung Kai Seng The Star - Wheelpower - 21 February 2008

The Star, Thursday, February 21, 2008

Living with Parkinson's - Tung Kai Seng


I RECENTLY wrote about a Chinese New Year event for which I joined some 50 elderly disabled persons and their caregivers; it was an outing to a popular shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur. It was my first experience being in the company of so many elderly people with disabilities. Among them was a gentleman, Tung Kai Seng, whom I interviewed by phone a few days before the event.

Front Row L-R: Roa's father, Rao and his sons. Back Row: Sara Lew, Dr. Seri Devi and son, Lisa Yap, Dr. Seri Devi's daughter, Ananthy

Tung, 52, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD) when he was 45. One of the most frustrating experiences for Tung is that he can never predict what his day will be like.

"One moment, I'm full of energy and raring to go; the next, my strength is all sapped and I'm a totally different person," said Tung who is married, with a 21-year old daughter.

I found out what Tung meant at the CNY do. The moment I arrived, Tung practically ran out to greet me. Half an hour later, he was almost unrecognisable as he slumped quietly in his wheelchair. Because of this, Tung makes it a habit to take a wheelchair along wherever he goes.

"My behaviour confuses a lot of people," said Tung.

A loving father and daughter. Tung Kai Seng with his daughter, Wen Ping at the "house-warming" gathering at Parkinson Center on 2 January 2006.

Tung Kai Seng volunteered to go up the stage to "test" his vocal abilities during a public forum held in conjunction with the World's Parkinson Day Celebration on 21/4/2007.

Tung Kai Seng is a regular at most medical talks/activities held by the association. Pic taken 20/9/03.

He related an incident during a recent shopping trip. Tung had asked his mother to sit in his wheelchair because he was feeling fine that day. "Everyone thought I was a carer for my mother until the roles were suddenly reversed," he explained.

Strangers stared in disbelief when they saw Tung being wheeled by his elderly mother the next minute.

The former medical store worker said that, occasionally, his body would suddenly "go on strike". When this happens, Tung finds it impossible to take even a single step.

Parkinson's disease is a condition of the nervous system. It gets worse over time and causes the muscles to become weak, and the limbs to shake.

Tung did not know he had the disease until his wife noticed a sinister gait in his walk, and that his right hand did not swing along with the left. Then there were the tremors in his hand that could not be ignored.

However, it was not until a year later that a neurologist diagnosed Tung's condition. Tung said that by then he was not surprised by the revelation.

"I had done some reading on my own and narrowed it down to PD. The doctor told me that although there is no cure for PD, there are many medications today which can slow the disease down," said Tung.

Tung was referred to the Malaysian Parkinson Disease Association (MPDA) in Kuala Lumpur.

"Meeting people in the same boat helped me to face my condition with hope and courage. Today, I make it a point never to miss a single meeting at the MPDA," said Tung.

He added that his condition had made him more sensitive to the needs of others.

"Today, whenever I enter a building, I can't help but check and see if it is wheelchair-friendly. If not, I make it a point to highlight my dissatisfaction with the management."

For more information on the Malaysian Parkinson Disease Association, call 03-7980 6685 / e-mail:mpda1@streamyx.com / visit http://mpda.org.my