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2016 Sir Zelman Cowen Winner - Peter Raymond

Dec. 22, 2016

Congratulations to Peter Raymond, winner of the Sir Zelman Cowen Award in 2016.

Each year, Parkinson’s Victoria presents the Sir Zelman Cowan Award to an individual in recognition of their invaluable contribution to Parkinson’s Victoria and people living with Parkinson’s.

The following copy, is taken from his daughter Kellie's nomination:

"Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago. As a 52 year old who was very active and healthy in every other way it came as a shock. He still played cricket in the summer with the same club he had been with for over 30 years, enjoyed games of golf and travelling overseas. Dad never had ‘the shakes’, but looking back there were signs; an unsteady walk, lack of co-ordination and always being half a second behind everyone else to physically register what his brain wanted him to do.

As a close family we rallied behind dad – found out everything we could about Parkinson’s and what we needed to do to help him. At the beginning his symptoms were mild – but they were there. We eased the sting by making light of the situation and laughing when something slipped from his fingers at the dinner table or he stumbled on the footpath. Perhaps a little harsh to some, but it is the way our family deals with stress and a means of making everyone laugh.

Being an ex-teacher and armed with knowledge, Dad wasted no time in joining Parkinson’s Victoria and answered many media calls from newspapers and television. He gave talks, radio interviews and television, all the while taking his medication and suffering in relative silence. Dad made sure everyone knew about his illness, not for recognition or sympathy, but so he could share his knowledge and give advice where it was needed.

Throughout the years Dad’s symptoms got worse – more and more medication, an excruciatingly sore back, lack of sleep, stiffness, depression and less and less physical dexterity. He found himself barely able to write, and most sadly for his family and friends, had to give up one of his true loves – his sport. Unsurprisingly Dad used his retirement and extra spare time to make his way to the Board of Parkinson’s Victoria and soon to President. He was motivated, well liked and passionate about everything they did. Not a family dinner went by without something being mentioned about Parkinson’s Victoria and what they were planning next.

When ‘A Walk in the Park’ was introduced in Victoria 8 years ago, again Dad jumped onto the bandwagon and spread the word like wildfire. He rallied family, friends, old work colleagues and people he really didn’t even know to raise close to $10,000. Since then, every year he has managed to bring in at least $5,000 and ‘The Walk’ and his team ‘Walking for Pa’ has it written on their calendar as an event they wouldn’t dare miss.

By 2013 Dad’s illness was chronic. He was rapidly losing quality of life and had to soon resign from the Board of Parkinson’s Victoria. All his time was taken up with different types of therapy and doctor’s appointments and he was quite depressed. Taking handfuls of pills a day and with extreme dyskinesia, he started looking into Deep Brain Stimulation as his only option left. It was a big move – someone drilling holes into your brain whilst you were lying on an operating table listening to everything. As a family he and mum educated us on the benefits and possible side effects and we all agreed it was a great, if not heroic move.

In 2014 Dad had his surgery. As always he was keen to share his ups and downs with those who might benefit and was eager to help when the ABC approached him asking to film a story around it. Television crews invaded Mum and Dad’s home to film ‘before’ shots of him going about his day to day routine, hoping I’m sure to sell their story on the miracle of what was to come after the operation.

All went well and unbelievably Dad’s life was changed in just a few hours. He was down to 1 pill a day and his dyskinesia, sleep problems and depression all but vanished overnight. Family and friends were amazed and delighted at the results and dad continued to share his story via media outlets to reach as many people as he could. Long lost friends and neighbours came out of the woodwork to tell him they too had Parkinson’s and to ask where they could go for help and what he knew. He arranged coffee dates, introduced them to doctors and steered them towards Parkinson’s Victoria.

He and Mum have since moved to a lovely, self-contained unit in a retirement village, and it was only a few short months before Dad started up a weekly Parkinson’s support group which he leads every Friday. Everyone who lives there knows he is their ‘go to’ man for everything Parkinson’s – again, not because he wants the attention, but because he simply wants to help. I chatted to a lady last week from the Village who has come out of a severe depression since meeting Dad – she believes he has changed her life, as she was on her own, recently diagnosed and had no idea what to do.

It’s rather a cliché I know, but I have not once, in the 15 years since Dad was diagnosed, ever heard him complain. He still needs to attend almost daily physio, massage, gym or medical appointments, but these are attended without gripe or protestation. As a side effect of his DBS surgery he at times gets a little confused or forgetful, but my Mum, the heroine that she is, takes control when she needs to and all is ok. Just yesterday Dad was rushed by ambulance to hospital when he couldn’t maintain his balance. It turned out to be a bad case of vertigo, but he told me this morning that he’d overheard someone in the cubicle next to him with MS complaining about the treatment they were receiving. Without a thought Dad drew back the curtain, pulled out a business card and recommended his own neurosurgeon. Mum and I nearly fell off our chairs when he told us – but that’s Dad – always looking out for others and always trying to make a difference.

I am quite emotional as I write this as it is only seeing it written on paper that I can start to comprehend what Dad has been through. I don’t know what the future holds – something tells me more symptoms, more doctors and a tougher fight. I do know however that for as long as he has the ability, Dad will be striving to help others in the battle that is Parkinson’s; and for that I believe he deserves to commended in the highest degree."

Accepting his award at the 2016 Annual General Meeting, Peter said "Parkinson's is a rotten thing but it is incredible how it brings us all together".

Congratulations Peter and thank you for the incredible contribution you've made to the Parkinson's community. 


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