Name: Judy Rawlins
Judy Rawlins President ofParkinson's
Queensland and Todd Borgie, 2004
It is estimated that more than 100,000 people in Australia have Parkinson's disease. Judy Rawlins, of Queensland, was diagnosed at the age of 36 after being involved in a car accident. Soon after the accident, a tremor emerged and proceeded to get worse. Not long after, uncontrolled tremors caused her to resign from her position at Ford, where she typically worked long hours. During her struggle to figure out what was going on, she went to a number of general physicians who had very few suggestions for her. Finally, she was sent to a neurologist who ultimately made the diagnosis. He told her that she should be sure to get her affairs in order, as she most certainly had a date with a nursing home within the next five years. Angry and scared, she began her fight against Parkinson's Disease.
When I first met Judy (fifteen years after her diagnosis), I seriously had to ask her what motivated her to become the executive officer of Parkinson's Queensland. She smiled a bit as she saw my mouth drop open when she told me she had been diagnosed with Parkinson's almost fifteen years ago. I hadn't noticed any symptoms. She was 36 when she was diagnosed, but since then she has undergone radical treatments, such as a pellodatomy five years after she was diagnosed, and deep-brain stimulation about one year ago.
Her advice to other Parkinson's patients is to "keep on doing what you love to do! Don't let Parkinson's dictate your future."
In her spare time, Judy is an avid gardener and loves to spend time with her husband of 23 years, and also her poodle. At work, Judy's days are full as the executive officer of Parkinson's Queensland. Her day can include anything from educational talks, to home visits that help ensure a good quality of life for Parkinson's sufferers, to just sharing her experience.
After a talk she gave the other day, a woman commented, "I have learned more from you (Judy) today than I have learned from my GP in one-and-a-half years."
"Doctors sometimes ask me to talk to their patients," said Judy. "I often find myself translating for the doctors."
She has been given more than 250 referrals in the last year. She attends support groups, but she says the difficult thing about support groups is that people do not want to see what their future might have in store for them.
One of the most difficult symptoms of the disease is the patient's "slowing down," or bradykenisis. Judy didn't realize that she was really slowing down until she noticed that her mother was now doing things faster than she was. For Judy, her mind and her body slowed down together, so she didn't realize her slowing down as much as the people around her did. Parkinson's patients, she says, can be up to five times slower than a person who doesn't have the disease.A life with Parkinson's Disease has fueled Judy's determination to do everything she can to increase the public's awareness of the disease, build a better understanding of the disease for the people who have it, and to secure a better quality of life for all those who suffer from its debilitating effects.
"Be patient with people with Parkinson's, and be sure to not do everything for them," she says. "Listen to them and try to understand their needs".