Imagine the simplest tasks — such as brushing your teeth or speaking — becoming increasingly difficult. What if you had to think about swallowing and blinking, because your brain forgot to do these things automatically? These are symptoms of a neurological disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease. According to a United Nation’s health report, nearly one in six of the world’s population, suffer from neurological disorders, from Alzheimer and Parkinson disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy to migraine, brain injuries and neuroinfections, with some 6.8 million dying of the maladies each year. Parkinson’s disease alone affects 500,000 people in the United States, with 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
This week, Bill Waite from the United Kingdom played at Sevillano Links as part of his personal golf challenge to raise awareness about neurological disorders. He is playing a round of golf at 18 courses in May from British Columbia to Stanford University, sharing his story, giving inspiration to others, and collecting donations for research programs.
Bill is a remarkable man who not only taught mathematics and sports for 32 years, he wrote math textbooks that are used in schools around the world. A brilliant scholar and former athlete, the last thing he expected to develop was a condition that affected his brain and motor skills.
In 2008, after developing “niggling health issues,” Bill was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), and told he only had a two to four years to live. Faced with a dim future, he decided to live life in the now and went on ten overseas trips, took swimming lessons, and played golf twice a week. When his health began to improve, he learned he was misdiagnosed and that he actually had Parkinson’s disease. Unlike PSP, Parkinson’s could be treated and controlled with drugs. With a regime of drugs, Bill’s general health improved. With improved health came the desire to do something worthwhile with his life, which is why Bill decided to embark on the golf challenge.
The challenge was inspired in part by Bill’s friend and golf partner Derek, who coincidently succumbed to motor neurone disease only four weeks before Bill was diagnosed with PSP.
“People have been so welcoming and supportive on this journey,” said Bill. Bill returns the welcome with a gracious smile and the willingness to listen and give advice to others based on his experience. At Sevillano Links, several people shared stories of themselves or loved ones who are also afflicted with a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s disease.
“People and their family members often downplay their symptoms as the result of normal aging and do not seek help from a healthcare provider,” said Bill. “Sometimes they don’t seek help because they are afraid of the stigma attached to the diagnosis of something like Parkinson’s or Alzheimers. However, in many cases the individual’s health could improve with proper diagnosis and treatment. Getting the word out to help others have a better quality of life is why I am doing this.”
There are two local groups providing support for Parkinson’s disease. For information about these support groups, in Redding call 530-229-0878 and in Chico call Harry at 530-343-1907. For information about Alzheimer’s support programs, call the Alzheimer's Association at 530-895-9661.
To follow Bill’s journey, like his facebook blog 'Parkinson's play Golf'' at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Parkinsons-play-golf-PDpG/325625547489842?ref=ts