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I got depressed over Parkinson's just like Williams

An Irish woman with Parkinson's Disease said she was saddened but not surprised that Robin Williams had been in the early stages of the disease.

Dublin teacher Sinead O'Kane said she herself had suffered from deep depression in the early stages of Parkinson's disease.

She said she felt enormous compassion for the comedian, who took his own life this week. Ms O'Kane (52) said Parkinson's also affected her voice intonation and robbed her of her ability to express herself humorously.

Honesty

She supported a statement from the Parkinson's Association of Ireland that depression was one of many symptoms of Parkinson's.

The statement acknowledged the actor appeared to have a longer-term problem with depression which pre-dated his Parkinson's diagnosis.

The association "appreciated the honesty" of his wife Susan in speaking out about the 
condition.

The disease is a progressive neurological disorder. Classic symptoms can include poor balance and tremors or shaking in a hand, arm or leg - which can go unnoticed at first.

Ms O'Kane, who works as a primary school principal in Dublin, said she was diagnosed at the age of 39 when her second child was just a few months old. She had begun walking with a shuffle and one day lost her balance and fell over her baby.

She got "very seriously depressed" even before getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's.

"I had got so down, I was tired and listless, and lost two stone. I had to put my children into childcare even though I was at home on maternity leave," she said.

She has continued to work although she is incapable of handwriting. She types instead. Her speech is sometimes a bit impaired and she has a mild shake in her hand and leg.

"I have a strong frame of mind, which has helped me. My husband Neil has been a great support," she said.

She said knew a man who could not cope with Parkinson's and took his own life.

But she believed sufferers should keep living life as fully as possible.

"I would tell others with it to keep doing what you can do while you can," she said.

She said a book Lucky Me, written by actor Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's as a young man, was excellent, adding: "It really inspired me."

Active

The Parkinson's Association stated there are more than 9,000 people in Ireland living with Parkinson's.

The association has a range of services it provides countrywide.

Its statement said it was important to note that many people live full and active lives with Parkinson's, but, for some, it is life-changing and can be a major worry, for both the patients and their carers.

Information was available at www.parkinsons.ie or call 1800 359 359.

aokeeffe@herald.ie


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