Review of Poems by Colin Newnham, Artist & Writer. Facts about Parkinson's Disease & DBS treatment
'A Pint of Pondwater Please' & 'Slightly Salty'
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.
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.
'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’)!
‘If you don’t have a poem you’ve written that’s fine, This book is for you, get to know some of mine’
‘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.’
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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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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