A personal experience with Parkinson’s disease has prompted Rodney MP Mark Mitchell to join a 160km bike ride across his constituency in June.
The ride is to raise awareness and funds for research into a cure for Parkinson’s.
Mr Mitchell contacted Mahurangi Matters to offer his support, following an article on January 18, which appealed for a charity rider.
Scotsman Bernie Docherty, who was diagnosed with the disease two years ago, aged 50, launched the appeal. Bernie plans to complete a simultaneous, 100-mile fundraising ride in Britain, on June 25.
“When I read the story I knew I had to find a way of supporting the ride,” Mr Mitchell says.
“When I was in the Police force, I came off second best to a piece of four-by-two and that part of my brain that releases dopamine was damaged. For three years I had Parkinson’s symptoms and I can completely understand what Bernie’s going through.”
Bernie has exchanged emails with Mr Mitchell and has received other offers of help from Mahurangi residents.
“I was completely blown away, especially by Mark’s offer to ride and raise funds,” Bernie says.
“It’s a great cause, but there are millions of worthy causes out there. I feel very humbled.”
Bernie visited New Zealand several years ago and says he loves Mahurangi. He initially wanted to place an advert for a rider to create a global fundraiser.
“I’ve got Parkinson’s at a young age and I have very severe symptoms. I can be awake for three days straight. Later in the year I will undergo Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. This project has given me real focus especially as I am no longer able to work,” Bernie says.
Mr Mitchell says he is encouraging other MPs to take up the challenge. The cycle route is yet to be determined.
“Bernie is very good at using humour to help him deal with his challenges, which is why I am looking to include as many downhill stretches of road as possible.”
Parkinson’s – symptoms and treatments
Parkinson’s is caused by insufficient quantities of dopamine in the brain. When dopamine levels fall, movements become slow and awkward. People with Parkinson’s experience a combination of different motor and non-motor symptoms, including tremors, muscle rigidity and insomnia.
Who gets Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s is relatively common. About one in 500 people have the condition. The average age at diagnosis is 59. It is not known what causes or triggers the disease and research continues into finding a cure.
Drug treatments for Parkinson’s aims to increase the level of dopamine that reaches the brain, stimulate the parts of the brain where dopamine works, or block the action of other chemicals that affect dopamine. Exercise is also important as it improves the body’s response to dopamine. Deep Brain Stimulation implants (DBS) use mild electrical pulses to stimulate a precisely targeted area of the brain. Symptoms can be controlled by DBS and it usually results in a reduction of additional medication. New research indicates coffee can slow the progression of symptoms. Medical marijuana can also help manage symptoms, but there is no conclusive, research-based evidence.
Is there hope for a cure?
Stem-cell research currently offers the best hope for a cure. Researchers from TransEuro, a European-based consortium, have successfully turned stem-cells into nerve-cells similar to the ones lost in Parkinson’s in the laboratory. Their first patient trials to transplant fetal dopamine-producing cells started in May 2015.