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[back] Extraordinary Man Anthony Thanasayan (The Star) - 19 June 2008

IT WAS wonderful to hear about all the terrific events that transpired to give our dads their due on Father's Day last Sunday. But what about dads with disabled persons in their families? They hardly get picked up by the media radar at all. I was introduced to one of these extraordinary dads by the Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) last week.

Lee Kim Hiang (in orange cap)

I had to postpone my telephone interview with him three times when something cropped up from my side. However, Lee Kim Hiang, 72, never lost his patience with me. His kindness told me that here was a man who fully understood the unpredictable lives that the handicapped lead due to our health problems.

Lee's wife, Minie Lim, contracted Parkinson's Disease (PD) almost 20 years ago.

The disease started with body cramps at first. It began in Minie's legs and slowly moved to the other parts of her body. The Lees used various ointments to relieve the condition, which helped for a while.

Then they began to notice an insidious slowness of movement in Minie, followed by a slur in her speech.

The Lees decided to see a specialist, who suspected it was Parkinson's Disease. However, since both husband and wife did not know much about the condition at that time, they were not aware of the seriousness of the disease.

Today Minie has to medicate herself as often as three times a day. When she gets an attack during an "off period," her body freezes up. It takes about 30 minutes after medication for her to return to normal.

"One of the most difficult challenges was dealing with the side effects of the medication that caused Minie to hallucinate a few years ago," he added. Minie used to see strangers in the house, hear voices, and was paranoid about many things.

Initially they found it hard to understand why all this was happening to them.

"It was especially hard as my wife is one of the kindest persons I know," said Lee. "As a former midwife with the Government, she would always go the extra mile to help virtually everyone in the village who came to her," said the former school teacher from Kluang, Johor.

Today, Lee and his family have fully accepted the condition.

Lee went on to say that one of the greatest places to be is at the Parkinson's Club in Happy Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Sufferers can go to the club to meet others who have the same condition.

"It is at the club that we get to learn about the newer medication that is available for PD," said Lee.

Lee recalls a recent activity organised by the MPDA which offered a balloon ride for members.

"My wife who lived in fear for many years because of PD, loved the balloon ride so much that she even went for a second round. It was a wonderful to see her up in the balloon," said Lee.

The Lees love going to the Giant Hypermarket in Kelana Jaya and Tesco in Mutiara Damansara both in Petaling Jaya because of the parking lots reserved for the disabled.

"I wish that the security guards are trained to give us a helping hand when I'm struggling to get the wheelchair out of the car for my wife," said Lee. He says it is a shame that persons with Parkinson's Disease are not able to get a welfare card because the Government has yet to recognise them as disabled persons.