In October 1999, when trying to complete an auction contract, real estate agent Bernard McGrath suddenly noticed that his handwriting had become tiny. He was only 42, his health had been good and there was no trace of Parkinson’s disease in his family.
“Liz would have to dress me as my tremor left me unable to do up buttons or tie my shoe laces”
While the diagnosis was distressing to Bernard and his wife, Liz, they and their two children continued on as usual for the next few years, but by mid-2004 Bernard’s disease had deteriorated drastically.
Bernard’s medication began with Sinemet, then Cabaser followed by Stelivo, Sifrol and Madapar, but he suffered with side effects from dyskinesia to compulsive behaviour. The compulsive behaviour effects of Cabaser in particular had a devastating impact on Bernard’s finances, causing him to start a new business when he should have been scaling down his work activities.
‘I wouldn’t listen to anyone and started working stupid hours which only exacerbated my illness. In 2008 we sold the business at a cost.’ In May 2008 Bernard underwent Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). ‘The results were extraordinary and I was back at work a month later, this time as an employee, and continued working until 2011 when I retired aged 54.’
Bernard and his family then moved to Berry where he started to paint. Although he had no formal training, Bernard found that he could create vivid canvases and that the activity was a great form of therapy for his Parkinson’s disease. He believes that DBS stimulated a part of his brain that has triggered this imaginative outflow.
‘These days generally I feel very well, except that my speech and walking are poor. Otherwise I am good.
‘Even though DBS which made such a huge difference for me is not attributable to the Garvan, without such research institutions, there would never be any progress. The Garvan is at the cutting-edge of Parkinson’s research internationally and it is only through this continued work that there will eventually be a cure, or in the meantime other forms of treatment.’