A love that lasts a lifetime
Some stories are so powerful, they stay with you forever. Elaine and Jonathan’s story of love and companionship is one of them.
They met in London in the 1960’s when Elaine was studying to become a physiotherapist, and Jonathan a doctor.
“It was a Women’s Weekly romance,” says Elaine. “In those days you had to stay and write up your notes after classes. That’s where Jonathan made the first move.”
Elaine remembers with crisp clarity their first date to the Boat Club Ball on 6 February. It was the start of a beautiful partnership spanning more than 50 years. The couple married, had three children – two girls and a boy – and worked together side-by-side.
An astute consulting physician, Jonathan became aware of his own difficulty speaking, writing and listening to his patients simultaneously. His writing got smaller and his arm stopped swinging by his side when he walked.
In 1996, Jonathan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Elaine became his primary carer.
On Christmas Day five years later, the family emigrated to Australia to escape Northern England’s long, dark winters. They moved into a 40-acre property outside Ballarat which has been home ever since.
Jonathan began attending Parkinson’s Victoria’s Ballarat Peer Support Group, where he enjoyed connecting with others in similar circumstances. With no specialists in the region, he travelled to Melbourne to see his neurologist and relied on information and support from Parkinson’s Victoria’s health team.
While they shared everything else, Jonathan hardly mentioned having Parkinson’s. As his condition deteriorated it became difficult for Elaine to care for him on her own.
“I’ll look after you for as long as it’s possible,” Elaine told Jonathan.
One night, as the whole family gathered at their home, Elaine went inside to prepare dinner and told Jonathan not to go far on his walk. Minutes later, Elaine returned to find Jonathan had vanished.
When they found Jonathan 20 minutes later, he was lying in a paddock. Unable to unlatch the gate because of his shaking hands – symptomatic of his Parkinson’s - he’d attempted to climb over it. His foot got caught in the gate, causing him to fall and hurt himself.
Elaine remembers softly saying to him, “Sweetheart, I can’t do this anymore.”
This was the day she made the heartbreaking decision to move Jonathan into full-time care.
Sadly, Jonathan passed away 3 ½ years ago. But when Elaine tells stories about him, it’s with such fondness and admiration that you can’t help feeling like he’s right there by her side.
As Ballarat’s Peer Support Group Leader for more than 10 years now, Elaine continues to support people living with – and caring for – people with Parkinson’s. She encourages them to actively manage their symptoms and to contact Parkinson’s Victoria’s multi-disciplinary health team for support and advice.
“It’s our security blanket,” says Elaine. “I make sure everyone has the number.”
Be part of the story – make a donation before 15 January and help to ensure people living with Parkinson’s have access to our experienced multi-disciplinary health team.