De­mys­ti­fy­ing Parkin­son’s to kids

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Chil­dren are be­ing taken on a jour­ney through ‘‘grandma’s brain’’ to help get their heads around Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

The self-pub­lished book Grandma’s Brain, writ­ten by Pon­sonby au­thor Ann An­drews, aims to break the dis­ease down into di­gestible chunks and an­swer many ques­tions chil­dren are likely to have.

An­drews hopes the book will pro­vide re­as­sur­ance and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the dis­ease and other brain dis­or­ders.

Parkin­son’s is a pro­gres­sive dis­ease of the brain af­fect­ing the ner­vous sys­tem caused by in­suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of dopamine – a chem­i­cal in the brain.

When dopamine lev­els drop, peo­ple’s move­ments be­come slow and awk­ward.

It was An­drews’ own grand­chil­dren who prompted her to pen the book.

‘‘I was play­ing in the spa pool with two of my grand­sons, when Jack – the el­dest – took my right hand and said: ‘I’ll hold your hand granny so that it doesn’t shake’.’’

An­drews was di­ag­nosed with Parkin­son’s in her 50s and says it hadn’t oc­curred to her to dis­cuss it with her two young grand­chil­dren be­fore that day.

She then set out to write a story fea­tur­ing her two grand­sons Jack, then aged 8, and Adam, then 5.

An­drews says

the con­di­tion af­fects the whole fam­ily but can look and sound par­tic­u­larly scary to chil­dren.

‘‘It’s easy to think Parkin­son’s is just your prob­lem. I think a lot of peo­ple don’t know how to ap­proach their grand- chil­dren, in par­tic­u­lar, and tell them any­thing about it and are ter­ri­bly wor­ried that they might tell them the wrong thing or that it may be mis­in­ter­preted.

‘‘It is bet­ter to be hon­est with them. They need to know as soon as pos­si­ble what is wrong with their par­ent or grand­par­ent.’’

An­drews’ grand­sons found it dif­fi­cult deal­ing with see­ing her lose her bal­ance and fall over be­fore she ex­plained to them why it hap­pens.

‘‘It’s quite com­mon for chil­dren to think that it’s their fault – they think that they might have done some­thing that’s made you like this or they are re­spon­si­ble for you fall­ing.’’

The book, il­lus­trated by Pon­sonby’s Sally Hol­lisMcLeod, has the sup­port of the Neu­ro­log­i­cal Foun­da­tion of New Zealand.

It is An­drews’ sec­ond book about the con­di­tion but her first geared to­wards chil­dren.

She pub­lished Pos­i­tively Parkin­son’s in 2011, drawing on her own ex­pe­ri­ences to of­fer ad­vice on how to cope with the im­pact of the dis­ease on ev­ery­day life.

Her ef­forts saw her awarded with a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for ser­vices to the com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing her work for peo­ple with Parkin­son’s.

An­drews says she would next like to write a book aimed at help­ing care­givers bet­ter un­der­stand brain dis­or­ders.

Photo: JESS LEE

The self-pub­lished book Grandma’s Brain, writ­ten by Pon­sonby au­thor Ann An­drews (left) and il­lus­trated by Sally Hol­lis-McLeod, aims to pro­vide re­as­sur­ance and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of Parkin­son’s dis­ease and other brain dis­or­ders.

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