By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
AS with any other non-profit organisation, the Kingdor National Parkinson Foundation relies heavily on the generosity of others. To thanks its sponsors as well to continue to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease, the foundation recently hosted a meet and greet.
The event also served to encourage Bahamians to stay active and keep moving, whether through walking, running, swimming or engaging in another form of exercise.
Since launching in 2000, the Kingdor National Parkinson Foundation has been hosting its annual gala ball in addition to various other activities to raise awareness and provide support for those with the disease. In April, it joined countries around the world in observing Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.
“Over the years we have helped more than 1,000 persons, not only financially but we have organised functions like training for caregivers, hosting four of those,” said Kingdor founder and chairperson Mavis Darling-Hill.
“We have had 15 very successful gala balls, walk/run competitions and a speech competition where we train younger persons to understand and learn about the disease. We have given monies for medication and medical attention. We just want to help persons with the disease.”
Operating as two separate arms, Kingdor is made up of a support group which is responsible for visits and outreach, and a professional advisory board which is responsible for fundraising, education and training. The advisory board and the support group work closely together when it comes to hosting functions.
For Mrs Darling-Hill, raising awareness of the disease is a matter close to her heart. Her father was diagnosed with the disease at age 66. She said there is no known cure or cause for Parkinson’s disease, and statistics are not readily available on the number of Bahamians affected.
“When my father was stricken with Parkinson’s Disease we realised how lonely the disease was. He was always a giving and helpful person, and he was always out there as a electrician, landlord, realtor and a minister of religion. So when he was diagnosed with the disease, it was like dealing with someone who got to a stage where he was depending heavily on the family to assist him in everything he had to do. My passion for this organistion really came from as a result of that,” said Mrs Darling-Hill.
Based on the experience from persons involved with the organisation, she said one of the main signs of Parkinson’s disease in the beginning stages can include a shaking of the left- or right-hand side of the body.
“More than 80 per cent of persons who were actually diagnosed, they usually say the tremors came first. And then of course there’s the slowness of movement and also the stiffness. Their body becomes stiff and there’s a difficulty when they walk. There are also hallucinations. Thank God my father didn’t get to that stage, but that is a very real stage. We ask family members to band together and assist the person as best they can,” said Mrs Darling-Hill.
She said there are a lot of people walking around who are not aware of what is going on with their bodies. She encouraged Bahamians to get to know their bodies better so when there is something strange going on, they can be in touch with a health care provider as soon as possible.
“Really and truly before my father was properly diagnosed he was told he was getting older, whereas we as family knew something was really wrong and it wasn’t due to sudden aging. So people need to be in touch with their own bodies and know when there are changes so they can take the necessary action, because early detection is extremely important. When anything feels out of the ordinary with your body, you should go and check your doctor,” said Mrs Darling-Hill.
When asked if Parkinson’s can be prevented, Mrs Darling-Hill said eating and sleeping well is always beneficial and that will slow it down, but “only God knows how to prevent something”.
She said a person can only pray that they are doing the right things.
“Trust in God and keep your family close, and if you are doing all of those things your life can be very healthy,” she said.
Mrs Darling-Hill enjoys giving advice about living healthy. She said it is important that she continue to work as a teaching consultant within the Kingdor Foundation to get persons the necessary help.
“We are very proud to have a newly formed advisory board. The meet and greet brought out a great crowd and they were happy to be there in attendance. We owe it all to that board getting this all going,” said Mrs Darling-Hill.
For more information on the disease, visit the organisation at Facebook.com/Kingdor Parkinson.