Paul’s shock as he was told he had ‘old folk’s disease’...at 45

Artist Paul MacDonald who has Parkinson's disease is having an exhibition of his work at King Cross Library.
Artist Paul MacDonald who has Parkinson's disease is having an exhibition of his work at King Cross Library.

A TALENTED artist who has Parkinson’s disease will be using his skills to raise awareness of the condition.

Paul MacDonald was just 45 when doctors gave him the devastating diagnosis that more commonly affects elderly people.

Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease caused by the progressive loss of brain cells and is associated with trembling arms and legs, stiffness of muscles and slowness of movement.

For Paul, now 49, of Wainhouse Road, King Cross, Halifax, the news was particularly hard to take as he had watched his father’s deterioration from the condition.

He said: “I had had problems with my left hand and left foot, a tremor and stiffness and would cradle my arm because I didn’t quite know what to do with it.

“My mobility was similar to my father but as I thought it was an older person’s disease, I thought it didn’t apply to me. He got it when he was 70.”

The medical world appeared to agree with Paul as he saw many neurologists over two years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“I was stunned. Completely stunned. I just felt like my life had come to a full stop at that point. Because of my father, I knew how it could progress. He was already in a home at that time. I just thought the worst really.”

After two years, Paul was forced to quit his job teaching drama and writing plays for people with learning disabilities.

He said: “I knew I couldn’t continue my job at the level of competence I had previously.

“Parksinson’s is as difficult mentally as it is physically. My brain finds it difficult to start actions, or once started it’s difficult to stop.

“It’s highly frustrating. Such as tidying up – a few hours later it would look much the same.

“I came to realise that most people have the ability to multi-task – they can make a meal and talk at the same time. You just take that for granted.

“But with Parkinson’s it’s: ‘Don’t talk to me, I’m tying my shoelaces’.”

It was while on a research programme in London into the condition that Paul realised his love of art, when he was asked to keep a diary.

“I found that hard because my handwriting is very small and laboured.

“But I realised I could draw better than I could write – and people seemed to like it.”

Paul has since developed his skills at Artworks in Halifax and has now created an exhibition of his work at King Cross Library in Halifax next week – Parkinson’s Awareness Week.

He said: “People think with Parkinson’s, you’re a bit stiff and shaky but it’s much, much more than that.

“It’s really difficult to explain the extent to where this disease can take you.

“The art calms me down and it’s become a way of communicating with other people. It’s therapeutic for me.

“I wanted to do something for Parkinson’s Awareness Week. I think the content of my work reflects some of the issues we are dealing with with this disesase.”

To mark the week, Parkinson’s UK will also be sending its charity mascot, Noodle - a brain cell toy, on a 470-mile relay around Yorkshire.

The Noodle is expected to arrive on a firefighter-ridden tandem at King Cross Library on Monday April 16.

It will be greeted by the Halifax branch of Parkinson’s UK at Paul’s exhibtion before continuing on to The Watermill, on Salterhebble Hill, to be met by members of the Huddersfield branch.