Nic and Ian Findlay Share their PD Story
Tuesday, 28th February 2012

Ian Findlay – You’re Not Alone ~ Learning to Swim Again!

For as long as I can remember I have been around swimming. I was hooked, well and truly when my older brother, Jimmy had all of his Olympic uniforms delivered to our home before he swam for Australia in the Butterfly at the Munich Olympics, 1972.

Some of the highlights of my involvement in swimming over the years include:

  • Swimming and living at the Australian Institute of Sport for two years;
  • Holding the Australian Open Record Butterfly 200m (1983) for six years;
  • Being an Australian representative at the Pan Pac games (1982);
  • Being Assistant Coach to Laurie Lawrence when Duncan Armstrong won the Gold Medal for the 200m freestyle at the Seoul Olympics (1988);
  • Being a Malaysian Swim Team coach at the Olympics, Seoul (1988);
  • Coaching Glen Houseman to a World Record in 1500m (1990), and a Silver Olympic Medal at Barcelona in (1992).
  • Being the Head Coach of the Australian Para Olympic team, Atlanta (1996);
  • Setting up my own swim school in Toowoomba and managing The Glennie Aquatic Centre for many young swimming enthusiasts (1994-2006).

In 2004, at the age of 40 I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. This news floored me and I think I lived in shock for a good while, as my Dad had passed away with Parkinson’s in 1996. In the first two years, I chose to keep my Parkinson’s private and managed it with medication. However, during this time my symptoms progressed at a rate where my medication had been significantly increased but were providing no longer than 2 hours of ‘on time’. My muscles suffered from severe cramping which made walk¬ing more than 200m difficult. Sleeping at night was impossible, and many a night was spent watching the late night Letterman Show.

In 2006, with my mobility decreasing and rigidity increasing I was unable to continue working as a professional swim coach and we made the decision to move to the Gold Coast to be closer to our family support network (and the beach). My wife returned to full time teaching and I became ‘Mr Mum’ to our young son, Max and did some part time consultancy work from home.

People diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at any age have many obstacles to overcome, but those diagnosed at such a young age are often working to support their family. Parkin¬son’s can be a huge knock to one’s self esteem when they can no longer continue working in their field of expertise.

Feeling like I was ‘maxed’ out on medication all the time with little relief, the option of Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery (DBS) arose in December 2008. It was then that I underwent the surgery at St Andrew’s War Memorial hospital under the skilled guidance of Professor Peter Silburn, Dr Terry Coyne and their team of doctors. The op¬eration was initially a great success. My symptoms were not as severe and I felt a huge relief from the muscle cramping.

In March 2009, things didn’t seem quite right and all of my old symptoms returned and I was back on full medi¬cation. The months that followed consisted of weekly trips to the neurologist in Brisbane to try and find a reason for my returning symptoms. An x-ray eventually revealed a broken lead on the left side that connected the probes in my brain to the stimulator in my chest. I un¬derwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery for the second time in August 2009 to repair the broken lead.

My recovery has been slower second time round, but I have now re¬turned to swimming and walking the beach regularly. On Easter Saturday 2010 I was able to complete a 12km ocean swim from Burleigh Heads to Surfers Paradise. I like to keep life pretty simple these days and enjoy spending time with my wife Nicole and my three children – Sophie, Dylan and Max. I’m at a stage where I have found a good balance with my medication and DBS settings, and I am looking forward to returning to Swim Coaching in 2011.

Nic Findlay – Praying for a Cure in 2012!

Imagine hearing this….. “Researchers have just announced that they have discovered a cure to Parkinson’s Disease.” I don’t know about you, but for me, to be able to hear those words, one day, for real would be an answer to prayer.

Those words encapsulate the ultimate goal of the “Day by Day” PD Diary, and that is simply to help fund those with the brains to find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, so that the diary can ultimately become non-existent!

In this article I will try to give you a little more insight into my background with Parkinson’s and why I felt the “Day by Day” diary needed to be created. I wrote the “Day by Day” diary not from the perspective of someone who is living with Parkinson’s, or from that of someone with a medical background, but from someone who has observed a loved one go through pretty tough times over the past seven years.

My husband Ian was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s at the age of 40 in 2004. I was eight months pregnant at the time with our son, Max. I can’t say that we didn’t deal with the news well – because, in retrospect, I don’t think we really dealt with the news at all. We were adopting the ‘ignore it and it will go away’ strategy, until it started impacting our day to day living and that was about 12 months down the track.

We certainly didn’t disclose the diagnosis to anyone except a couple of close family members. The flipside to making that choice was that it expended a lot of energy trying to “act” like Ian didn’t have Parkinson’s. It was a tough gig to pull off – but to his credit, Ian did pull it off with Academy award winning style. We ‘came out of the closest’ to our friends and family in December 2008, when Ian was scheduled to have Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery.

Fast tracking ahead until now and looking back on those initial years, we just had no idea what it was all about and what lay ahead for us as a family. We never recorded any of Ian’s progressing symptoms or tracked his medication. In hindsight, if I could turn back the clock, I would have kept a record from Day One. The benefit of logging your personal journey with Parkinson’s enables you and your support team to troubleshoot why you might be feeling ‘off’ at a certain time each day and more importantly what results to you feeling ‘on’.

The part about Parkinson’s that I find many don’t comprehend is that each day can vary so much from the one before – it is so hard to predict what lies ahead. As a wife who loves a husband with Parkinson’s, I find that the words from the Serenity Prayer resonate quite strongly with me

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Praying for a Cure in 2012!