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[back] World Parkinson's Day: Parkinson's Patients Treated To Hot Air Balloon Rides Jade Chan - The Star - 19 April 2008

World Parkinson's Day: Parkinson's Patients Treated To Hot Air Balloon Rides

FOR A brief moment, Asokan Muthu felt like he was a bird as he "flew" up in a hot air balloon and took in the scenery surrounding Padang Astaka in Petaling Jaya.

"It felt a bit scary at first because of the height, but I enjoyed it and would love to go on another ride again," said the 53-year-old father of two.

"It was a good experience and I liked the bird's eye view from the balloon," said Poon Kai Sing, 57.

Flying high: The highlight of the World Parkinson's Day celebration was the hot air balloon rides for Parkinson's patients.

Asokan, Poon and several other People with Parkinson's (PwP), along with their caregivers, were at the World Parkinson's Day (WPD) celebration organised by the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA), a support group for PwP and caregivers.

Held on the birthday of James Parkinson, who first identified Parkinson's as a distinct condition in 1817, WPD is celebrated annually on April 11 to promote awareness of Parkinson's and the importance of medical care for PwP.

The celebration, themed Living with Parkinson's Disease: Cultiva-ting a Soaring Spirit, was open to all members, supporters and well-wishers of MPDA.

The highlight of the event was the hot air balloon rides for patients. Other activities included line-dancing sessions with the ladies of Fun Stompers and telematches.

"The balloon ride is also a message to change the public's perception that PwP and caregivers do not sit around and are depressed all the time," said MPDA president Sara Lew.

"We also like to do happy and exciting things just like other people, and by having this positive attitude, will help us stay on top of our situation.

Family bonding: Sivaraman (third from left, in blue shirt) chatting with his family members at the gathering at Padang Astaka in Petaling Jaya.

"This event is different from the usual things that we have been organising, like medical talks, because the event is about living life."

According to MPDA vice-president and PwP Sivaraman Kannan Parkinson's is a muscle-control movement disorder in which a person has no control of his muscles.

"When the part of your brain that produces a chemical called dopamine deteriorates, your dopamine level reduces and you can't control your muscles.

"It's a long-term and progressive condition, but you can control the rate of deterioration through medication and exercise."

Asokan, who is a former MPDA committee member, said one of the committee's roles was to convince people how important caregivers were and the role they played in a PwP's life.

Forget all your worries: Lew (right,) joining the Parkinson's patients and their caregivers in a fun line-dancing session led by the ladies of Fun Stompers.

"Everybody has a role to play, including my children. They need to understand what Parkinson's is and can't rely on their mother all the time to take care of me.

"Emotional support is also very important. My wife, especially, gave me the support I needed. Without her, I wouldn't be here.

"It felt like it was the end of the world when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1990. I didn't know anything about Parkinson's and at age 35, was young for a Parkinson's patient.

"When I joined MPDA, I learnt more about Parkinson's and met more people, some of whom were worse off than me, and felt I wasn't alone," he said.