|Dr Anton Gartner|
Anton's research project using C.Elegans worms (PDF, 262KB) inspired us to create Dave the Worm - the newest member of the Parkinson's UK Fundraising team.
Anton recently told us a bit more about his groundbreaking research using worms to study Parkinson's.
We asked Anton to tell us about his personal connections to his research:
I don't have close relatives or friends affected by Parkinson's but my own mother is affected by another neurodegenerative condition called Multiple Sclerosis.
After 30 years with this, she is still doing fine and lives an independent life but has difficulty with walking. She can walk up to 100 meters or so but then she gets tired.
I experienced her anxiety in those early days when the first symptoms started to appear. Now I really admire her for moving on, always looking forward and making the very best of her life. She is fond of Dave the Worm and is now one of his international supporters.
Experiences of Parkinson's
I first met people with Parkinson's when I was working as a nurse on a hospital ward in Vienna just after obtaining my PhD.
At the time in Austria everyone had to complete a year of 'social service' - so it was this or join the army.
To begin with I was quite upset about having to leave the lab and not using the skills it hadn't taken so long to learn. But I soon started to enjoy the job and I gained much more than I would have done by staying in the lab for another year.
I learned how to deal with people, how to encourage them and how to help where help can be provided.
Although it was challenging having to deal with people affected by various and often very serious illnesses, I learned from them to stay optimistic and to enjoy life as much as one can.
And I remember many conversations, so much more thoughtful than often done in a lab.
I remember the day I met my first patient with Parkinson's very clearly.
We were trained to encourage our patients to be as independent as possible; so I encouraged him, as he seemed mobile and independent, to shave himself – something he hadn't done for a while.
Sure enough without saying a word he shaved himself, but unfortunately with several cuts. I felt terrible, but he was great, we became friends and it became my job to help him shave.
We enjoyed our time. Life is not always about big stories.
This Parkinson's Awareness Week (15-21 April) we're asking everyone to put themselves in people with Parkinson's shoes, and like Anton get a better understanding of how the condition affects day to day life.
And during the week Dave the Worm will be getting out and about to visit more Parkinson's researchers and find out more about their lives in the lab, so keep an eye on Dave's Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.