The National, Friday December 4th, 2015
IT takes great courage to publicly reveal one’s peculiar health condition or illness.
Some years ago, former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali shocked the world when he revealed that he had Parkinson’s disease.
Who would have thought that the great Ali, who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee in his heyday, would eventually succumb to this rare disease?
But that’s the cruel twist of fate that befalls people like Ali and other world figures who suffer from the disease, including former US President George Bush senior, evangelist Billy Graham, Hollywood actor Michael J. Fox and the late Pope John Paul II.
And yesterday, a high-profile Papua New Guinean took that brave step to publicly reveal, via The National, that he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
Chief Secretary to Government Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc said in an exclusive interview with senior journalist Malum Nalu, that he fell ill in March last year and was diagnosed with the disease.
An emotional Sir Manasupe also revealed that he would step down as the Government’s top public servant in February next year after consulting Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
The 55-year-old lawyer-cum-bureaucrat is from Sattelberg in Finschhafen, Morobe, and hails from a family that is renowned for producing prominent political and religious leaders since independence. His cousin is the current Speaker of Parliament Theodore Zurenuoc.
Although his illustrious public service career is coming to a rather abrupt and sad end, Sir Manasupe has plans to pursue other interests despite his illness.
Moreover, he will not allow a physical disability to prevent him from doing so. “I may not be running marathons but I will certainly continue to contribute in other ways.
His condition is not life-threatening or contagious. “All vital organs continue to function as normal. It has no bearing on my mental capacity. I am on the world’s best medication for Parkinson’s (disease).”
Papua New Guinea is better today for the likes of Sir Manasupe, who has given 30 years of loyal and dedicated public service to the country and people. His departure will leave a huge vacuum that will take a long time to fill.
It was indeed a difficult decision for Sir Manasupe to reveal that he is suffering from a disease that still has no cure, only a variety of medications that provide dramatic relief from the symptoms.
Parkinson’s disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
The four primary symptoms are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination.
As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.
Parkinson’s disease usually affects people over the age of 60. Early symptoms are subtle and occur gradually. In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others.
As the disease progresses, the shaking, or tremor, which affects the majority of people with Parkinson’s disease may begin to interfere with daily activities.
Other symptoms may include depression and other emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems or constipation; skin problems; and sleep disruptions.
There are currently no blood or laboratory tests that have been proven to help in diagnosing sporadic Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, the diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination.
The disease can be difficult to diagnose accurately. Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.
Parkinson’s disease is both chronic, meaning it persists over a long period of time, and progressive, meaning its symptoms grow worse over time.
Although some people become severely disabled, others experience only minor motor disruptions.
Tremor is the major symptom for some individuals, while for others tremor is only a minor complaint and other symptoms are more troublesome.
It is currently not possible to predict which symptoms will affect an individual, and the intensity of the symptoms also varies from person to person.