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[back] Join a support group Anthony Thanasayan (The Star) - 27 September 2007
It is important for Parkinson's disease patients to be involved in a support group and keep a positive attitude.

THE recent 50th Merdeka celebrations brought loads of pleasant memories for many Malaysians throughout the country. One of them is Sivaraman Kannan, who lives in Taman Seri Reko in Kajang, Selangor.

The 69-year-old former mechanical engineer e-mailed me last week to share some of his thoughts, especially with regard to his disability.

Sivaraman fondly reminisces about the very first Merdeka day. He writes: "It was daybreak on Aug 31, 1957. I remember it as if it was only yesterday. I was already at Dataran Merdeka with my platoon of Victoria Institution cadets. Merdeka was declared several hours earlier at midnight. Everyone was waiting eagerly for the parade to start."

"As the sun rose in the sky for the first time over Independent Malaya, there we were, Malaysians from all walks of life, wondering what the future held for each of us."

"I was a lad of 19 then. I never guessed that 50 years later I would be struggling with a condition like Parkinson's disease (PD). I had never heard about PD then," said Sivaraman, who is now vice-president of the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) in Kuala Lumpur.

MPDA was formed in 1994. It was set up by persons with PD and their caregivers, with support from healthcare professionals. The association offers support and assistance for PD patients and their caregivers.

"There are many people who are ignorant about PD," says Sivaraman.

"The sad part is that people who have PD don't bother to seek professional help. They are resigned to the fact that PD is part of old age and there is nothing one can do about it."

According to Sivaraman, although PD gets worse over time, patients can have a positive outlook because of the availability of medication to reduce many of the disease's symptoms.

"This enables persons with PD to live more independent and productive lives; the medication also helps to prolong their lives," says Sivaraman.

"Finding out that you have an incurable disease and that you will eventually become paralysed and totally dependant on others can be traumatic for the patient," says Sivaraman. "Many give up on life after a diagnosis."

According to Sivaraman, it is crucial for PD patients to continue leading normal lives despite their condition.

"As soon as a person is confirmed to have PD, they should be directed to a support group like the MPDA where they can meet others with the same condition."

"This will help them to discover how people with PD learn to cope with the disease in a positive way, no matter at which stage. Joining the MPDA will help them learn more about the disease and understand what is happening to them."

Sivaraman, who has been living with PD for the past 11 years, says physiotherapy is essential for PD sufferers.

"The facilities are available at our centre. It takes the chore out of the exercises when friends come together to work out."

Sivaraman hopes the government will set up more PD centres throughout the country.

For more information on the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association, call 012-625 2597.