Review of Poems by Colin Newnham, Artist & Writer. Facts about Parkinson's Disease & DBS treatment

'A Pint of Pondwater Please' & 'Slightly Salty'

Two poetry books full of humour and delight!
Two poetry books full of humour and delight!

My Father

Dad the photographer
Dad the photographer | Source

Personal Reflection

My father, an active man, optometrist, photographer, writer, artist and a man well-liked by those who knew him, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 73, having been generally healthy all his life. He died a couple of months before his 76th birthday.

I watched the gradual demise of his muscle control, his ability to walk and to hold a coherent conversation. He was aware all the time of what was happening to him. I had seen him cry only twice when I was younger. Hitting him in his early seventies, this illness caused him many tears of frustration and despair. He did not deserve such a debilitating end; no one does.

I know personally two others who have Parkinson’s; my partner’s brother and a friend called Colin Newnham.


Colin Newnham

Artist, poet & public reader
Artist, poet & public reader

More about Colin

Colin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s some years ago. He is a tall, friendly, intelligent, family man. We saw him about four years ago when he and his delightful wife visited our house in France. He was slightly unsteady on his feet, had a little difficulty recalling some words correctly but was generally doing well.

It was with some trepidation, then, that we awaited their visit to our house in England just a few months ago. I expected the Parkinson’s to have developed noticeably. Surprised and delighted, we saw a man who was still a little unsteady, still had some immediate recall difficulties, but whose symptoms of the disease seemed to be under control. Above all, his sense of humour was as keen as ever!

He told us about his treatment, referred to as DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation). I’ll explain a little about that later.


Poetry & Illustrations

Already a keen artist and poet, Colin decided to self-publish a book of poems, then another, in order to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and to raise funds for research. He first published ‘A Pint of Pondwater Please’ and followed it by ‘Slightly Salty’, both full of witty, poignant verse.

Not only is Mr Newnham a competent poet, he also uses his artistic talent to create illustrations in his own individual style. Both illustrations and poems are clever and quirky. They make you smile, they make you cry; whichever it is they hit home emotionally.

Let’s give you a little taste of Colin’s work.


Great Illustrations!
Great Illustrations!

'A Pint of Pondwater Please'

This illustrated book introduces itself as ‘For the young, the very young and grown ups who haven’t.’ Colin loves to read his poems out loud and encourages everyone to write their own and do the same to anyone who will listen (‘dogs are good listeners’)!

However,

‘If you don’t have a poem you’ve written that’s fine, This book is for you, get to know some of mine’


The Drizard

‘Pondwater’ deals with many creatures, big and small, as well as the Drizard.

“My Dad calls me a drizard, what kind of name is that

He thought I was a dragon, he is a silly chap

Cos he and mum are lizards, and I’m a lizard too…..’

You can order wooden drizards in various sizes, to adorn your garden or your mantelpiece or a child’s bedroom (no nightmares, very good guards).


All Creatures Great & Small

There are woodpeckers, giraffes, dolphins and newts. One poem defends the maligned newt against a well known saying implying a tendency to drink:

‘Newts don’t have a voice, they can’t say a word…..

we speak for them to make sure they are heard.

“As ….. as a newt” that’s absurd.’

The penultimate piece deals with memory, followed by an explanation of

‘The Arty Guffles’:

‘I tried to talk but could only snigger

I knew my problems would get bigger

If it was the arty guffles.’


Versatility!
Versatility!

'Slightly Salty'

Just as ‘Pondwater’ has its serious side, ‘Slightly Salty’ starts with such a theme. The poem ‘Uninvited’ deals with something that creeps up and makes you do strange things, makes you lose control.

‘Been some time now since we met

Not a moment to forget

Been there all the bloody time

His agenda, never mine’

‘Uninvited’ also gives you an introduction to a treatment called DBS, short for Deep Brain Stimulation. It includes Colin’s tribute to the doctors who have helped him.


Short History of Britain, Orchids & a Wedding Speech!

‘Slightly Salty’ continues to entertain, exploring the history of our sceptred isle, Great Britain. But beware, because…

‘This book is dangerous to those over retirement age as there is a very real danger of cataplexy being induced by excessive laughter with fatal consequences. Read only one page at a time and take a nap between pages.’

It wouldn’t be a work from Colin, an avid orchid searcher, if it didn’t allude somewhere to those beautiful, rare flowers. So we have ‘Diminutive Denizens’ as an educational guide.

It ends with an unexpected version of ‘The Wedding Speech’! Well, it doesn’t quite end until you’ve read ‘My Pig’ on the back cover, a poem full of Colin’s unique humour.


Writing & Art Work & Kings College Hospital

Mr Newnham explains his visit to Kings College Hospital ‘to have deep brain stimulators and the attendant battery implanted’. At the time of publishing ‘Slightly Salty’, he had donated over £200 to the cause through the sales of his work.

Colin continues to paint, produce wooden animals and birds and, of course, to write poetry and give public readings. Do visit his website and view his paintings and other work.

You have a choice between the following:

www.colinnewnham.weebly.com or contact him on

greentreelizard@gmail.com for a copy of his books.

Better yet, why not try both?

You won’t be disappointed and if you purchase a book or two you’ll be happy to feel you’ve made a contribution to raising money towards the research and treatment of Parkinson’s.


Diagnosis

It's not easy to diagnose Parkinson's. There are no laboratory tests so it's important that the diagnosis be made by a specialist. The specialist will examine the person for any physical signs of Parkinson's and take a detailed history of the symptoms experienced.


About Parkinson's Disease: Definition

a progressive disease of the nervous system marked by tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow, imprecise movement, chiefly affecting middle-aged and elderly people. It is associated with degeneration of the basal ganglia of the brain and a deficiency of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Origin: late 19th century: named after James Parkinson (1755–1824), English surgeon.


What does this Mean?

  • Symptoms and speed of progression differ depending on the individual.
  • One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s. That’s about 127,000 people in the UK.
  • It can affect mostly the over 50s but, sadly, younger people can get it too.
  • Parkinson’s is caused by a lack of a chemical called dopamine because some nerve cells in the brain have died. This can cause people’s movements to become slower, so it takes longer to do things.
  • Tiredness, pain, depression and constipation are other possible issues, which of course can have a great impact on day-to-day living.
  • There is no cure at present and it is not known why this condition occurs.
  • Parkinson’s is not a direct cause of death but symptoms do get worse over time.


Treatment

Despite there being no cure as yet, the development of Parkinson’s can be controlled with a combination of drugs, therapies and, occasionally, surgery. Naturally, as time goes by more care and support becomes necessary for many, though a good quality of life is still experienced by many for varied lengths of time.

As I mentioned above, one option for surgery is DBS, explained below. It is not for everyone but it can have a marked effect on those who undergo this procedure, as did Colin.

I was not aware of DBS before talking to Colin. I thought there were bound to be others who hadn’t heard of it either, so I hope the information is useful.


The DBS System Consists of 3 Components:

  • The lead- (also called an electrode)—a thin, insulated wire—is inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted in the brain. The tip of the electrode is positioned within the targeted brain area.
  • The extension- is an insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck, and shoulder, connecting the lead to the neurostimulator.
  • The neurostimulator- (the "battery pack") is the third component and is usually implanted under the skin near the collarbone. In some cases it may be implanted lower in the chest or under the skin over the abdomen.


Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) - notes taken straight from the website detailed below

  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms—most commonly the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.
  • The procedure is also used to treat essential tremor, a common neurological movement disorder.
  • DBS does not damage healthy brain tissue by destroying nerve cells. Instead the procedure blocks electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain.
  • At present, the procedure is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications. DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator—similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch—to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and PD symptoms. Before the procedure, a neurosurgeon uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning to identify and locate the exact target within the brain where electrical nerve signals generate the PD symptoms.
  • Some surgeons may use microelectrode recording—which involves a small wire that monitors the activity of nerve cells in the target area—to more specifically identify the precise brain target that will be stimulated.
  • Generally, these targets are the thalamus, subthalamic nucleus, and a portion of the globus pallidus.
  • Once the system is in place, electrical impulses are sent from the neurostimulator up along the extension wire and the lead and into the brain. These impulses interfere with and block the electrical signals that cause PD symptoms.


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Comments 20 comments

annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Frank. It is a difficult subject but I'm passionate about highlighting awareness of it and supporting research. Colin is definitely upbeat! I appreciate you kind comments.

Ann


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 months ago from Shelton

Thank you for the .. ehh difficult share and the poetry.. oh and the review I'm glad he has uses the lighter side and keeps the frustrations at bey.. Bless you annart


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Yes, Alun, it certainly is a dreadful disease. I can understand how you felt about your father. Sadly, my father's diagnosis came too late to do much about it but I still have wonderful memories of a wonderful man.

Thank you for your kind words regarding Colin and about the hub. Sorry for the delay in replying. Away from wifi too often these days!

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, teaches, for your kind words. Yes, he is really talented and so positive. I hope the same as you. I appreciate your visit and apologise for the delay in replying.

Ann


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 3 months ago from Essex, UK

A thoughtful and considerate hub Ann to promote both the work of your friend and the technique of Deep Brain Stimulation. Colin seems to be a talented, versatile and well adjusted individual with a good sense of humour. I wish him well.

My father had Parkinson's, and although it progressed only slowly over a course of about 20 years, it became more and more distressing as time went on. He died in 2012. A horrible illness.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 months ago

I once worked for a man with this disease. He kept a positive view of life to the end. Your friend Colin is quite talented and gifted as a writer of poetry. I pray he continue to enjoy life and share his creative talents with others.


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Gypsy Rose Lee: Thanks for your comment. Yes, fortunately research has come on in the last few years but sadly we are no nearer to finding a cure for this awful condition. I'm sure it's a matter of time but that will be too late for so many.

Thanks for the visit; much appreciated.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thanks, manatita. Glad you appreciated the medical information - seemed amiss not to go into a little more detail. Thanks for your kind comments.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Mike, thank you. I wanted to convey the seriousness and purpose behind the books yet also make clear the humour and quirkiness that pervades. It takes a certain type of character, such as Colin, to be able to cope like that and I'm glad you find the contrast/balance apt.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Alicia. It certainly amazed me how much the treatment has helped my friend. As you say, hopefully it will help many more and further strides will be made to improve all treatments.

Thanks for the visit; much appreciated.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Great to see you, Graham! Thanks for your comments and kind thoughts. I've never heard of Kennedys Disease but I shall look it up. I hope you're managing to cope with those frustrations at least most of the time and I wish you well.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Flourish: Thanks for another visit. I'm just catching up on this after a couple of days away from the internet. You're right about the humour and activity - also the positive attitude keeps many people more able to resist its onslaught.

Ann


annart profile image

annart 3 months ago from SW England Author

Hi Glenis! Thanks for reading and it's good to see you. I'm still playing catch-up so forgive me for not reading yours for a while; I shall be doing so.

Yes, it's wonderful to see such a tremendous result from this treatment. His books and his humour are indeed delightful.

Ann


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 months ago from Riga, Latvia

Thank you for this very informative and hopeful hub. Sure wish I had had information like this many years ago when the uncle of my first husband was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Eventually he did nothing except take medication and when he felt really bad he just kept to his bed. After several years he just dropped and died right away.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 3 months ago from london

Colin seems full of life and vigour. Good for him! I appreciate his creativity. So your father had problems too! A tough one for many. I have a couple of friends with this.

I see you got a bit medical towards the end. Great knowledge in this current day and age. Necessary. Informative Hub!.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 3 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Ann. You have covered so much territory in this piece. There was a artistic contrast between the disease and the poet/illustrator. 'Around the grey sadness' is a glow, put there by your writing.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

The books sound very interesting. I love the poetry that you've shared and the illustrations look delightful. It's great that DBS is helping your friend. I hope this treatment is investigated further and helps more people.


old albion profile image

old albion 3 months ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Ann. I found this very interesting. Good luck to Colin in the future. I have a similar condition it's called Kennedys Disease for short and I can empathise with his day to day frustrations. Well done.

Graham.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 months ago from USA

I'm glad that he has found that DBS works for him. Humor and staying productive go a long way towards holding back the ravages of illnesses and diseases that time and the world inflict on us.


Glenis Rix 3 months ago

It's wonderful that your friend has been able to access a successful means of slowing this awful disease and is retaining a sense of humour. His book looks delightful - love the illustrations. :)

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