Megan Baker House Charity

PUBLISHED: 17:49 24 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 February 2013

David Wallis

David Wallis

David Wallis is fighting Parkinson's disease through positivity, a smallholding and the help of Megan Baker House. By Anne Glover

David Wallis is fighting Parkinson's disease through positivity, a smallholding and the help of Megan Baker House. By Anne Glover

Every morning David Wallis's alarm wakes him at 6am to remind him to take his first

handful of pills. He then lays back for an hour until they do the job his brain is no longer is capable of — sending chemical messages to his body to tell it to co-ordinate movement. David, who is 59, suffers from Parkinson's disease and cannot move his limbs until he takes the drug Dopamine which enables him to achieve what he describes as a sort of high speed shuffle. He lives on a three-acre smallholding in Eardisland, which he and wife Sue bought five years ago when the disease worsened.

David, a retired teacher and market trader and keen sportsman, said: "Parkinson's is a progressive disease but I managed to keep fit by playing football and squash until I found I couldn't turn left anymore, which obviously affected my performance. I decided that in order to stay fit I would buy a smallholding." Now, while Sue goes off to work as a teacher at Dilwyn C of E School, David tends to the garden, vegetable patch, orchard and livestock and has built himself a mini golf course and marked out a football pitch. He also has two dogs that regularly need walking.

"I get to play football and golf when my sons visit. It does take a lot out of me to keep going but you have to see the positive side of life and not allow something like this to get you down. I work out in the open for as long as I'm able," he said. The smallholding is split by a country lane and he has often found himself at the far end and unable to get back home.

"There have been times when I have done too much or forgotten to take my medication and my body has shut down. I literally have to crawl home on my hands and knees but, you know, people like me have to stay optimistic otherwise we'd all give in.

"I have known people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease who have literally just given up and sit in a chair all day. It's the kind of disease you have to learn to live with and when you do that you accept it and get on with life."

Among the problems David has to manage is his inability to stop himself moving once his legs have received the message to 'go'. "It's all part of the disease, the brain cannot tell the body to stop moving and sometimes I have found myself in some pretty ridiculous situations and have had to plough my way into a fence or tree to stop moving," he said.

"Eating can also be a problem as I can suddenly lose control over my movement and my food and drink could end up anywhere. But you learn to laugh at yourself. You have to because otherwise you'd never socialise or get out." Recently he organised a gala charity event at Eardisland village hall which raised £1,500 for Megan Baker House, where people are taught how to deal with debilitating illnesses. He is one of the members who attends an adult group at the centre in Leominster. The Megan Baker charity set up to help children with motor disorders including Cerebral Palsy, strokes and brain damage was able to meet the call for an adult group last year. It is held twice a week for people who have suffered a stroke, head injuries or who have Parkinson's disease.

"The group helps so many people like me who are taught co-ordination and I have seen some great accomplishments, things they would never be able to do normally. It's a therapy that helps create a new pathway from the brain to the body," said David who attends weekly. Megan Baker House was founded by Jo Baker-Watson, the mother of Megan, born with Cerebral Palsy and given no hope for the future. Megan died at the age of four, as the centre was opening. Up until that time, Jo would travel to Hungary to get the help for her daughter that was denied her in this country.

She watched the intense emotion on her daughter's face as she was taught to roll over for the first time, bringing a brand new dimension into her life and was determined to make the therapy more accessible in this country. For David Wallis, it offers support, encouragement and a technique that helps him stay mobile.

"The centre offers the education free so I wanted to do something to say thank you." Local businesses helped support David's fundraising auction, supper and raffle. Jo Baker-Watson said she was immensely grateful for all the hard work David had put into organising the charity event: "This kind of fundraising support is vital, as we receive no financial support from any statutory sources. I know the huge effort David would have had to make to hold an evening like this; David is an inspiration to us all," she said.

David added: "I wanted to give something back to the charity for all the help they give to us. I have seen how conductive education has helped people in my own class to cope with their disabilities. They are helping me to help myself keep fit because one day there will be a cure for Parkinson's disease and when that day arrives I want to be fit and ready to be one of the first to receive it."

Megan Baker House follows the conductive education programmes developed by András Peto in Hungary. Peto argued that instead of motordisordered children receiving special therapies, they could improve through the normal process of learning. Peto was the first to consider disability as an educational challenge and not as a medical problem.

Megan Baker House,

Moreton Eye, Leominster

Tel: 01568 616179.

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