AS World Parkinson’s Day draws closer, one Orange patient has become the first in the region to try a treatment to improve her quality of life.
Yvonne McConnell was diagnosed with the degenerative disease 10 years ago and her oral medication was becoming less effective, needing a dose every hour and a half.
“I got weak, I couldn’t walk well and my speech was shaky,” she said.
But the 71-year-old was able to try Duodopa, an intestinal gel delivering dopamine via a pump straight to the bowel where it joins the blood stream and enters the brain. About 230 Australians use the treatment nationally.
“The treatment’s working really well, although it took a bit to get the right dosage,” she said.
“It means having energy and being able - I can cook and garden.”
Parkinson’s occurs when the brain does not produce enough dopamine and as the cells degenerate, treatment does not work as well.
Mrs McConnell’s neurologist, Professor Simon Hawke, said it was exciting to see his patient looking better.
“Duodopa is taking off because it’s good for people with Parkinson’s who can’t have more invasive treatment,” he said.
“The big one with all degenerative diseases is we don’t know how to stop the cells degenerating. We’re getting better at managing the symptoms, but that’s going to be the next advancement.”
A Parkinson’s Disease education afternoon was held at Orange Ex-Services’ Club on Tuesday featuring seven expert speakers, so patients and those with an interest in the disease could ask questions.
Parkinson’s NSW chief executive Miriam Dixon said there was still a lack of awareness about the way the disease affected people and how early it could strike.
“A lot of people don’t know that 10 per cent of patients are diagnosed under the age of 50 and 20 per cent are of working age,” she said.
“Patients can be accused of being drunk when they’re walking because of their shaking gait.
“There is no cure and we need support.”
Monday will mark World Parkinson’s Day.