A Derry man who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was 30 years old is to use his love of golf to raise awareness of the condition.
Ronan Coyle, a local civil servant and keen amateur golfer, first noticed symptoms at age 24 and was finally diagnosed seven years ago.
Far from putting him off the game, Ronan has found that it in fact helps him overcome his symptoms and now he is using the game as a fundraiser with the first “Par for Parkinson’s” event to be held at the City of Derry Golf Club.
The event aims to fundraise for Parkinson’s UK’s information and support services, but also to raise awareness of Parkinson’s as a condition which can strike at any age.
Parkinson’s affects 145,000 people in the UK and there are around 3,700 people in the North living with the condition.
Parkinson’s UK is the leading charity for the condition driving better care, treatments and quality of life for those living with Parkinson’s.
Its mission is to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected through cutting edge research, information, support and campaigning.
Given his young age, Ronan had a difficult time getting a diagnosis, with even neurologists not immediately considering that he could have Parkinson’s.
“I visited two neurologists in my mid to late 20s and both of them said there was nothing wrong with me, just a bit of a tremor,” Ronan explained.
“So when the third neurologist I saw said I had Parkinson’s, while it wasn’t the news I wanted to hear, it was something of a relief to know what was wrong with me.”
Ronan said initially he didn’t want to know much about Parkinson’s.
“Like many people, initially I didn’t know much about the condition and I didn’t want to either. I didn’t want to Google it, talk about it or do any research in case I found out something horrible.
“However, once I understood there was a lot more to it than shaking, and specifically that exercising regularly helps with the condition, my attitude changed. That is why it is vital people living with the condition get information and support from Parkinson’s UK.”
Ronan takes part in a number of sports regularly, even trying his hand at tai chi.
“I joined a gym and am there three or four times a week; I play squash several times a month; I even go to yoga and try to swim even though I’m a terrible swimmer!
“I have even tried tai chi and play a bit of football. My wife also made the mistake of buying me a bike for my birthday a few months ago and now I am out on it all the time too!
“However, I’ve been playing golf almost since I was a toddler and that was always my first love. I have been a single-figure handicapper but am finding it harder to maintain since I got married!”
Ronan decided to use his love of golf to give something back to Parkinson’s UK.
“I am lucky enough to have a large circle of friends also involved in sport, and they have been invaluable in helping me as I have set up this event to bring something new to fundraising for Parkinson’s in the North West.
“Local businesses have also been very helpful and we have 20 sponsors from the border counties.
“It is great to get so many people and organisations on board not just to raise funds, but also so that more and more people become aware of how hard it is to live with the condition.
“However, I also want people to know it is not all gloom and doom.
“You learn to appreciate the simple things and you find ways to adapt.”
Ronan hopes to get more involved with Parkinson’s UK and to help other people who have been recently diagnosed.
“I am hoping the event will help with my volunteering for the charity as I am discussing ways in which I can help newly diagnosed people with Parkinson’s along with the charity’s support team.”
The Par for Parkinson’s takes place at City of Derry Golf Club on Sunday, September 15.
To find out more or to donate visit https://uk.gofundme.com/f/golfing-for-parkinsons.
For further information about Parkinson’s UK visit www.parkinsons.org.uk