Home' Southern Health News : Southern Health News - February 2015 Contents Whether travelling to work or undertaking an
epic road journey across the Nullarbor – a voyage
completed 30 times, he lives to ride.
Five years ago John noticed slight tremors in his
hands – a symptom he ignored and put down
to a childhood injury. The tremors worsened and
in January 2014, they began affecting his gear
“It got to the stage where it was affecting my
left foot and I’d to really have to think about
changing gears,” John said. “I knew it could only
be one thing - Parkinson’s.”
“One morning riding to work it was really
annoying me and, spur of the moment, I decided
that I had to do something about it. I knew I had
to make the most of the time that I could still ride
on two wheels.”
After confirming his Parkinson’s prognosis
with his local doctor, John embarked on a very
personal journey to raise public awareness of the
often misunderstood condition - a degenerative
neurological disease which causes slowness of
movement, reduced mobility, rigidity and tremors.
Spurred on by minimal public discussion about
Parkinson’s, in February 2014 John began an epic
22,500km voyage around Australia on his 1998
Ducati ST2 covered in Parkinson’s SA stickers – a
campaign he named ‘Shifting Gears - The ride of
For 97 days John travelled the countryside
speaking to passers-by about the condition,
delivering inspiring talks to Parkinson’s support
groups and raising well over $30,000 for
Parkinson’s SA – an achievement he attributes to
the enormous kindness of strangers.
Throughout the journey John’s condition
Just weeks after arriving back in his hometown
of Stone Hut, he began suffering from dysphagia
difficulty swallowing – and his partner finally
convinced the proud country man to look into
In December 2014 John met with Parkinson’s
specialists at Flinders Medical Centre (FMC) and
commenced a tailored medication regime.
“After his Parkinson’s diagnosis John was initially
quite reluctant to take medications and was trying
to tough it out,” said FMC Neurologist Associate
Professor Rob Wilcox.
Changing gears for Parkinson’s
BY KYLA GOODFELLOW
Avid motorcyclist John Stockwell hasn’t owned a car for over two decades. The 66-year-old who hails from South Australia’s
Mid North has clocked up hundreds of thousands of kilometres on his trusted bikes.
John Stockwell will ride around
New Zealand on his motorbike
for Parkinson's next month.
rate of undetected cases in Australia may be as
high as 40 per cent.
“Parkinson’s symptoms are often mistaken for
signs of normal ageing or, in the case of Young
Onset Parkinson’s – occurring in those aged under
50 – symptoms can be put down to psychiatric
and other neurology conditions,” Ruth said.
“The more that the public understand about
Parkinson’s the better, because the sooner a
person is able to recognise their symptoms and
receive appropriate medication and support, the
quicker they can return to a better quality of life
and regain their independence.”
If you, or someone you know, needs assistance
with Parkinson’s, contact the Parkinson’s
SA Helpline on 1800 644 189 to obtain
further information, support and counselling.
Alternatively, visit www.parkinsonssa.org.au/
To donate to John’s fundraising campaign, call
Parkinson’s SA on 8357 8909.
“This is a common initial response to a diagnosis
of Parkinson’s disease especially in people like John
who had never been on any medications and had
been fit, well and active most of their lives.”
Associate Professor Wilcox explained Parkinson’s
is characterised by reduced levels of dopamine
the chemical messenger in the brain which
controls all of the body’s movements. Medication
is needed to replace the dopamine and help
restore normal movement.
Within 20 minutes of taking the medication, John
said he was able to lift his feet again.
“I could change gears just like I used to,” he
Despite believing his journey around Australia
would be his last long distance ride, with the
help of Associate Professor Wilcox and FMC
Parkinson’s Nurse Ruth Withey, John is now
preparing for another great adventure in the
name of Parkinson’s.
In March this year, John will return to his birth
country New Zealand and commence an epic
4,500 kilometre motorcycle journey around the
north and south islands.
“My therapy is riding a bike. All I want to do is
ride my bike for Parkinson’s because there’s not
enough people out there who are aware of
it,” he said.
Despite being the second most common
neurodegenerative disorder, with
an estimated 60,000 Australians
diagnosed with the condition, the
SOUTHERN HEALTH NEWS / FEBRUARY 2015 / 15
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