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Join us in fighting Parkinson's impact

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 April 2011

Garth Ravenhill

Garth Ravenhill

Archant copyright 2011

You might think of people with Parkinson's as being elderly - but that is not always the case, as Garth Ravenhill demonstrates.

The 39-year-old married man from Thorpe St Andrew is one of about 120,000 people across the UK living with Parkinson’s.

It is a progressive neurological condition which can have symptoms such as tremor, rigidity and slowness of movement, and the charity Parkinson’s UK is committed to finding a cure and improving life for everyone affected by Parkinson’s. This week the charity is running Parkinson’s Awareness Week with the theme “Join us.”

The week aims to raise the profile of the condition and encourage others to get involved with the charity – and Mr Ravenhill is among those urging others to support Parkinson’s UK’s vital work.

He said: “Parkinson’s Awareness Week provides a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the condition and the support offered by Parkinson’s UK. No-one has to face Parkinson’s alone and I would urge anyone to join us, in any way they can, to help find a cure for everyone affected by Parkinson’s.”

Mr Ravenhill, a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, was diagnosed in 2008 after he frequently experienced cramp in his right foot.

“I think I had an inkling really, being a nurse I had a bit of an idea, but I was still shocked,” he said. “As a nurse I have worked with people with Parkinson’s, but I had only ever come across elderly people with Parkinson’s, and I was 36 or 37 when I was diagnosed.”

While Parkinson’s is often seen as a condition that affects older people, one in 20 people are under 40 when diagnosed. Mr Ravenhill describes coping with the condition as “a bit of a rollercoaster.” He is determined to stay positive and says his condition does not affect his job as a nurse at all.

“The thing about Parkinson’s is everyone is different. I do not shake. I tend to be stiff,” he said.

“My right side has become stiffer as time has gone on and that has affected my walking a bit. It comes and goes and it can be brought on by stressful situations.

“I go to the gym regularly. I cycle and swim. Exercise has become very important to me. I think there is a lot of research leaning towards the benefits of exercise, and it makes me feel better as well.”

Mr Ravenhill knows in time his symptoms could progress, and he lives in hope of a cure being found. He describes Parkinson’s UK’s research work as vital.

“There are medicines to hold back symptoms but there is no cure so I will keep marching on,” he said. “You have got to be positive. I have got a strong wife, Kim, who is great and she supports me.

“There is also a lot of research going on and I would urge everyone to help support that research.”

He said the medical staff who have helped him have been fantastic, and he praised the support offered by Parkinson’s UK, in particular the charity’s helpline and its support groups. He said a group set up in Norwich for younger people who have Parkinson’s has given him a good opportunity to talk about things.

Steve Ford, Parkinson’s UK chief executive, said: “As part of this year’s Parkinson’s Awareness Week we’re asking even more people to join us in making sure that no one has to face Parkinson’s alone.” People can help the charity by supporting its campaigns, raising funds, taking part in research, and supporting local groups.

For more about Parkinson’s UK visit www.parkinsons.org.uk. The Parkinson’s UK helpline number is 0808 800 0303.

Parkinson’s Ride is a Norwich group for younger people who have Parkinson’s. It meets the last Thursday of every month from 7pm at the Griffin Pub, Thorpe St Andrew. For more information email Mark Whitworth at whitty-106@fsmail.net

The Norwich branch of Parkinson’s UK meets at 7pm on the first Tuesday of every month at Gage Road Chapel, Sprowston, The branch also runs an exercise group and carers group. For more information call Joy Raymer on 01603 431757.

Do you have a story? Call Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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