Life with Parkinson’s . . . Danny Byrne and Gerry Peake
'Some days are good, some days not so good'
Danny Byrne, Lord Mayor of Cootehill, at the St Patrick’s Day parade which he led out in the town.
Danny Byrne, Co Cavan
Danny Byrne is Mayor of Cootehill, an honour given to him for his fund-raising efforts for the Cavan branch of the Parkinson’s Association. With the backing of a small, active committee he raised almost €14,000 last year through bake-offs, table quizzes and a sponsored walk, finishing his efforts by organising a tractor run through the town last November, complete with spot prizes for the drivers.
Three years ago Danny was told he had Parkinson’s. Now 64, he says, “Some days are good, some days not so good. I get infections. I was 38 when I discovered I only had one kidney.”
Nevertheless, Danny, who’s originally from Dungarvan, was in the army for 32 years. He was working up to three years before his diagnosis, when he had a stroke. Now he’s not allowed to drive.
“I’d be totally lost without my wife Mary,” he says, “And we have a son here with us. We’re only seven minutes from the town.”
Despite his Parkinson’s Danny remains active and walks every day. “I would prefer to run. I used to run to keep fit.”
He’s not a man to put his feet up - he’s just finished a six-week exercise course with a physiotherapist.
Gerry Peake, Co Wexford
As chairman of the Wexford branch of the Parkinson’s Association, Gerry Peake says, “I’ve met some of the most special people ever.”
He and his wife Jackie moved to Ferns 15 years ago, although he was first enchanted by all things Irish when he came to here to work on the film Ryan’s Daughter. A Welshman, he worked at Palm Studios after he left the air force and then, because claim costs on films were on the increase, he set up his own company dealing with insurance and loss adjustment for big budget films. He worked on seven more films here, including The Field and Barry Lyndon.
“The biggest claim I ever dealt with,” he says, “was on Cleopatra when, among other things, Elizabeth Taylor got sick. I worked in 48 different countries for MGM, Universal, Disney and other big studios.”
Gerry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nine years ago when he was 74. Now 83, he’s still driving and walking every day. His ambition is for his members to have access to a Parkinson’s nurse specialist in the county. Gerry gets tremor in his arm and adds, “It’s gone to the legs”. His speech is affected but speech therapy helps.
“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he says, “But we all know the first thing they tell you is that Parkinson’s is not life-threatening.”
This “Life with Parkinson’s” series coincides with Parkinson’s Awareness Week, which is from April 9th-15th. The Parkinson’s Association Freephone Helpline is: 1800 359359 or go to parkinsons.ie.