|[back] Parkies meet for millennium lunch, 29th March,2000 Ann Marie Chandy (The Star Metro) - 29 March 2000|
THE Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) held its sixth annual gathering last Sunday at the Sheraton Towers Selangor Ballroom in Subang Jaya. When it may have been easier for them to have forfeited the event because of bad weather and the inconvenience of having to face a crowd, the "parkies" (as they like to cal themselves) came out in full force
The lunch billed the Millennium Buffet Lunch, was attended by 80 members, their families and caregivers. It was a time for most Parkinson's Disease (PD) sufferers to meet with other patients and compare notes, exchange views and share experiences. Thanks to sponsors, Faber Mediserve, a grand lunch was prepared in the members' honour and to add to the merriment, there was a lucky draw with several prizes and hampers given away.
Gracing the event were Acting President, L.K. Nathan, Life President Lloyd Tan, Datin Rusiah Zainal (wife of late President Datuk Ismail Mansor) and her son Fazli, and MPDA advisor Dr S'ng Kim Hock. After the preliminary speeches from the guests of honour it was time to tuck into the good food and mingle.
Tan Ching Huan, 54, a parkie for 12 years now, had come all the way from Bukit Mertajam for the gathering with his wife (and "pillar of strength") Yew Mee Geok. His second time at an annual MPDA gathering, Tan feels that such functions are a wonderful way of giving PD sufferers and caregivers a relief from routine, enabling them to interact with others who share similar problems and experiences.
"Such gatherings also give us a chance to communicate with the doctors on a different level," said Tan. "Usually we hardly get to talk to a doctor about our problems or gain any real insight about this disease. Vice versa, the doctor doesn't get a chance to get any feedback from the patient either.
"Through the MPDA's efforts and these kind of get togethers, hopefully, there will be more interaction between doctor and patient."
Tan feels that many are still in the dark about the disease. "When I first had symptoms of Parkinson's the doctors in Bukit Mertajam thought I was suffering from a stroke instead!"
Indeed, apart from the publicity the disease has received because it has not spared celebrities like Michael J. Fox, boxer Muhammad Ali and also rumoured to afflict Pope John Paul II, PD remains relatively obsure.
It is, in fact, caused by a group of nerve cells in the brain failing to produce adequate amounts of a chemical called Dopamine. This neuro-transmitter is a necessary ingredient for smooth co-ordinated movement and the relaxation of muscles.
Tan, who suffers from chronic muscle spasms and also has hallucinations, gets virtually no sleep at all. He is under constant medication and travels to Penang from Bukit Mertajam every month for a medical review. He gets the latest news on Parkinson's Disease through his copy of Berita Parkie, a monthly newsletter by the MPDA.
The newsletter enables regular contact with all MPDA members, keeping them informed and aware of the latest in medical and research development.
The MPDA, which was form in 1994, has 210 members nationwide. Monthly meetings for members are held at the Pantai Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur. Here, members are encouraged to share experience and hear guest speakers who include neurologists, and health and exercise advisors.
Over the last six years, the association has grown from strength to strength but there is still room for improvement. In his speech on Sunday, advisor Dr. S'ng made a call for sponsors, able-minded and able-bodied people to come forward with assistance.
Because the odds are that more than one in every hundred people over 60 years of age will have developed PD, the association needs to intensify its activities, support services and find new and improved ways of helping sufferers and their families.
"This is the new millennium and there is much to look forward to in terms of development of surgery and medication where Parkinson's Disease is concerned," said Dr. S'ng. "There is much to hope for."