The sky’s the limit

Samuel Ng was the epitome of health, until his whole world suddenly came crashing down, about five years ago.

Ng was then 42 and living in his hometown, Ipoh, where he worked for a top pharmaceutical company.

His associates and friends knew him to be one of the most active persons around. He was also into healthy living, which meant he subscribed to a balanced diet, exercised regularly and never touched a cigarette.

Also, no one could ever make him go near the bottle. After all, as the breadwinner of his family, the medical executive considered his lovely wife Christine and children Gibson, 20, and Rachel, 17, the greatest treasures in his life. They alone were motivation and reason enough to stay healthy.

Then one evening after dinner, everything changed.

"I felt a sharp pain in my stomach," Ng recalls. "I wasted no time in getting myself checked by a doctor the next morning."

An ultrasound showed stones in his gall bladder. These were quickly removed through key-hole surgery and he thought that that was the end of it.

But a week later, he felt a stiffness in his left hand, which was unusual. That led him to the consultation room of another doctor - this time a neurologist.

After a a simple test, Ng received a rude shock: "I was told point blank that I had Parkinson's disease (PD).

"My immediate reaction was denial. I scoffed at the doctor, saying he must have been seeing too many PD patients. A bright career was just starting for me then and it was no time for me to be dealing with this."

Condition worsened

The doctor prescribed medication for his condition, but Ng just threw it away because of some side effects and went back to work. The stiffness in his hand got worse and he began to have difficulty sleeping at night. In desperation, he sought further consultations with other doctors, but they all arrived at the same conclusion.

"I tried every single thing I could to make my job work for me because I didn't want to let my family down, but things just got worse. The breaking point came when I couldn't wear my shirt by myself and started walking like a robot. I had to depend on others to do things for me which I could do by myself previously."

Ng finally told his boss about his illness. He had served 16 years with the company, but they had no choice but to let him go.

"Being at home and doing nothing made me start worrying about the future and I fell into depression. Even at that point, I still refused to accept that I had PD. I felt useless, hopeless and afraid.

"There were moments when I couldn't control my anger and ended up breaking some things just to release my frustration. Seeing me this way was difficult for my family to take."

Then he met a neurologist in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur. The specialist prescribed a unique combination of drugs to tackle each and every one of the symptoms that was troubling Ng. That helped improve his condition, little by little.

Over time, he has also learnt other ways to cope with his condition.

"That includes going out and meeting other people with Parkinson's and their caregivers so that I can learn from the experiences and challenges of others," he says.

"The first step is to accept your condition. Next, dream big dreams, especially those in which, despite our condition, we can still play a part in helping others like ourselves.

"There is no limit to what we can do: help set up support groups for PD persons, get the government to make positive changes to help us, educate the public about PD. As they say, the sky is really the limit."

Last Sunday, Ng spent Father's Day enjoying special dishes made by Gibson, who is doing a degree in hotel management.