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[back] Father's Day blues Anthony Thanasayan (Wheelpower) - 16 June 2011

Thursday June 16, 2011

Father's Day blues

WHEEL POWER - The Star Newspaper

A bereaved family presses on, hopeful of seeing a cure for Parkinson's some day.

FATHER'S Day, which falls on the third Sunday in June, will be observed this weekend. However, for one individual and her family in Kuala Lumpur, this Father's Day will be the first time they will be spending the special occasion without their beloved dad.

Sara Lew, president of the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA), lost her dad to Parkinson's disease (PD) early this year.

Dad's Last Birthday Celebration - Nov. 2010. Mum and Dad's joint 81st Birthday Celebration
(Pic inserted by Sara Lew)

"Death is extremely hard for anyone to deal with, what more when it happens to someone who is very dear to us," said Sara. "Though it has been several months since Dad left us, the pain of parting is still fresh in our hearts. Not a single day passes by when the whole family does not think of him."

Sara went on to explain the struggles her dad and her family went through.

Her father was 81 when he passed away in January. He had been suffering from PD for 21 years.

Unrelenting: Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects muscle movement and control, resulting in difficulty in doing daily activities like typing on a computer keyboard.

"The last few years had been particularly difficult," said Sara.

"Because of the advanced stage of the disease, Dad was totally dependent on a wheelchair to move around."

His condition was aggravated by diabetes, and glaucoma robbed him of his sight a few years ago.

People with Parkinson's live with the nightmare of falling and injuring themselves.

"Dad was not spared this. He had a fall a few weeks before he passed away. He was also suffering from a severe chest infection at the time."

Sara and her siblings had to look after their dad round the clock to ensure he was never alone whenever he needed something.

By that time, her dad was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Though he was unable to speak most of the time, Sara said he was still able to respond by gripping the hands of family members who touched him.

"We were praying for a miracle, but Dad passed away peacefully on the second week of January," said Sara. "Dad was given a grand send-off on his final journey by family members, relatives and friends. He left behind a legacy through his unrelenting battle with PD. It was Dad who encouraged me to join the MPDA nearly 20 years ago.

"As the years flew by, my involvement in the association grew. I met many people who were stricken by Parkinson's; they also put up a good fight. Now with Dad gone, I am even more determined to carry on my work with people with Parkinson's."

She pointed out that the experience of learning to care for her father has helped her to better understand and empathise with the problems faced by persons affected by the disease, and their caregivers.

"Dad would never miss an opportunity to attend the annual World Parkinson's Day (WPD) celebrations on April 11 every year," shared Sara.

"Last year, I was moved to tears when I saw Dad entering the hall in his wheelchair; he had lost his sight by then. I had an uneasy feeling that, that might be his last public appearance for WPD.

"This year, Mum attended the WPD celebrations for the first time without Dad. Although I saw her shedding a tear now and then, she remained strong throughout the function, demonstrating her determination to continue supporting all her friends at the MPDA in the hope of seeing a cure for PD one day."

Sara said she would never forget the day her dad attended his first MPDA meeting 16 years ago.

"Dad was always depressed over his diagnosis of PD. However, after meeting others like him, he cheered up when he realised he was not alone in his struggles.

"He stopped feeling sorry for himself and began to live life positively. He read up on Parkinson's and took part in activities to stay on top of things.

"Dad might have lost the battle for now, but the war against PD rages on. Hopefully, some day a cure will be found for PD," Sara added.

Go to mpda.org.my/main.php for more information on Parkinson's disease.