I was delighted to be invited, last week, as Guest Speaker at my local Doctor’s surgery, here in the Suffolk Coastal area. The surgery, which I hold in very high regard, is also a training centre for Trainee Doctors. My task was to speak with the Year 3 Trainees from Cambridge about my diagnosis of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD). I was a little nervous, which was to be expected.
I am used to having trained well established and fully qualified Doctor’s around the treatment and prescribing regimen for patients with drug and alcohol addiction, and those with blood borne viruses, in a previous professional role. Now, I also work with many local Doctors and medical teams around the well-being of those of my clients with extra support needs, subject to client consent, so supporting the development of Trainee Doctors did not worry me. The only discomfort was that, on this occasion, the subject was me!
As it turned out, the planned half hour was, in fact, two small groups each for one hour and with no rest break in between! I would need to ask the surgery to plan breaks in, if I do this again.
The meeting room was rather dour, in direct contrast to the bright and cheerfully decorated main surgery area. Each group of very young looking, polite and friendly trainees asked me to talk through the history of the development of my symptoms. I was pleased to note that they took an interest in my experience as a patient of the NHS and as a person who just happened to have Parkinson’s. They appeared a little taken aback that my progression to diagnosis had actually taken twenty years; which is sadly not uncommon for people with YOPD. Sadly, too many young people with Parkinson’s have to take up a long-term battle to have their symptoms taken seriously and to gain access to adequate tests.
While at some points I could feel myself developing an emotional response to telling my story, which I kept somewhat well hidden, I enjoyed having the opportunity to raise awareness and to teach these eager trainees how to recognise the potential symptoms of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. It was a joy to also impart to them what it feels like to be me, through all that I have endured as a result of this disease.
My aim in taking part was to hopefully be part of changing the experience that the next generation of people like me have in their teens, twenties and thirties. We desperately need more Doctors to have the awareness and the skills to intervene earlier and to provide diagnosis far earlier than the twenty years I had to suffer, when I was seen in previous Doctor’s Surgeries.
This was a valuable experience and one that I hope to be invited to participate in, again.
(c) Dean Parsons.