Fulfilling an Olympic dream, despite Parkinson's

Matt Eagles, 43, has had Parkinson's for many years and is a keen sports photographer. During the Olympics most of us watched from our sofas or the stands, but Matt was amongst the action. This is his story… 

“17 days, 10 football matches, taekwondo, badminton, basketball and beach volleyball. 3 times at Wembley Stadium, 3 times at Old Trafford, and once at Cardiff. 

“Over 1,500 rail miles and thousands of pictures later, my journey as official Olympics photographer is now complete.

“I am still absolutely buzzing. I cannot believe ‘I was there!’ 
Uruguay score against UAE - Photo by Matt Eagles

"I lived on adrenalin the whole time. But I was concerned my Parkinson’s would spoil my big chance. 

"I had visions of falling over in front of a global audience of billions as the gold medal was presented at Wembley - it never happened. I had recently started on new medication and thankfully it worked like a dream.

“On the whole my mobility was great. I walked miles with heavy camera equipment, sweated buckets, I always ended the day exhausted but smiling. 

“The venue photo managers and stadium staff were incredibly helpful. They organised lockers to store equipment and giving me bottles of water and power bars when nothing was available elsewhere.

“When I wasn’t so good the volunteers spotted my discomfort before I cared to admit it myself.  An army officer spotted I was wobbly outside Wembley Arena and a wheelchair arrived (for which I was secretly extremely grateful). Then I was taken to the media transport where I headed to the Olympic Park.

“At beach volleyball I had really bad cramps and could barely stand having walked nearly 2 miles in the wrong direction trying to get to Horse Guards Parade. I was fast tracked into the venue again in a chair and taken to a disabled viewing spot far better than my original ticket. 

“My big passion is football. I was completely focused on the action at Cardiff and Wembley. Although kneeling on concrete with bare knees for an hour and a half took its toll. 

“I made sure my Parkinson’s didn’t spoil my moment to shine. I proved to myself and any doubters that if you are determined enough there are no barriers to achieving your goals.”

You can see a selection of Matt’s best photos from the Olympic Games on the Photo Gallery of the ESPN website. There are more of Matt's fantastic photos on his Flickr page.

What were your experiences of the Olympics? Did you attend an event?

Parkinson's in the media this week

British acting legend, Bob Hoskins’ announcement that he was retiring from acting after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s caused a flurry of enquiries from the media to our charity on Wednesday night. Laura Carpenter, our Media and Communications Officer, talks about the busy week in the media for Parkinson’s.

Working in a press office you often expect for unexpected things to happen. The news agenda sets your working hours. When the phone rings at 5.30pm with an urgent enquiry you have to respond immediately because the media can’t and simply won’t wait.

Raising awareness and bringing attention to Parkinson’s as a condition to promote understanding for those affected is an ongoing challenge.

Someone well-known like Bob being diagnosed with Parkinson’s will of course be devastating for Bob and his family. But it also enables the condition to be brought into the light and to be talked about and explained.

Since the surprise announcement, our staff and people with Parkinson’s have been out and about in the media talking about the condition and what it means when someone is diagnosed.

Every national newspaper carried some information about Parkinson’s including the Daily Mail and Daily Express. As well as this fantastic coverage, our Chief Executive, Steve Ford, spoke to ITV’s Daybreak to give further information about the condition.

Daiga Heisters, our Head of Professional Engagement and Education, and Tim who runs our helpline have been interviewed by lots of local radio stations. 

These have included BBC Radio London, LBC, BBC Radio Suffolk and BBC Radio Merseyside – and the requests keep coming in.

Jane Hill at our 2011 Christmas concert
Jane Hillwhose Dad had Parkinson’s, and who is a BBC newsreader and one of our most active celebrity supporters, has also written about understanding of the condition on the Guardian website.

Our Director of Research Kieran Breen has also spoken to the Mail on Sunday the future of research into Parkinson’s, so look out for that one due out on Sunday too.

We hope this will mean more people will get the information and support they need from our charity. We’re already seeing this happening.

Since the announcement, our website has been inundated with visits to the site – 7,622 on Wednesday and 6,727 on Thursday. The second and third highest number of visits to the website ever in a single day - only behind to the launch of Parkinson’s Awareness Week earlier this year.

Bob’s announcement has been an important catalyst to get people to finally start talking about Parkinson’s. 

Once the media polish fades, we hope that the lasting legacy of his experience will be one of helping to create better understanding and awareness of the condition – something we so desperately need.

Be inspired by Joseph and Wiggo and join us on a cycle ride

We’re always pleased to hear about the amazing challenges and lengths our fundraisers will go to raise funds for us.

This week we heard from Joseph Giret QC, who has been lucky enough to be chosen as only 1 of 7 amateur cyclists from across the world, to take part in a prestigious 780km cycling event called Haute Route.

Joseph will start his challenge in Geneva, Switzerland and will finish in Nice, France from 19-25 August 2012.

The event will see over 500 cyclists compete across a 21,000m total ascent, covering 19 mountains and some stunning views. 

Since Bradley Wiggins’historic first place finish in the Tour de France last weekend and his superb Olympic gold medal yesterday, both young and old have been dusting down their bikes and getting back in the saddle, to enjoy one of the UK’s most popular pastimes.

Are you feeling inspired? You don’t have to take on a mammoth cycling challenge to raise funds for us. 

We’re holding a series of one-day cycle rides across the UK called Pedal for Parkinson’s. There are distances to suit all abilities and levels, so budding Bradley Wiggins’s are more than welcome to take part!

Pedal for Parkinson’s makes for a great family day out, so why not get into the Olympic spirit and join us in Stirling on 5 August and Newcastle on 9 September. We’ll give you a cycling top to make you officially part of Team Parkinson’s and a finisher’s medal.  

If you’re feeling adventurous and would prefer a bigger challenge, we’ll be cycling from Londonto Paris from 4-8 September 2013. We’ll also be cycling to Rajasthan in India in November 2013, in a ride which ends at the iconic Taj Mahal. 

If you’d like more information on any of our cycle rides, call our Events team on 020 7963 9305 or events@parkinsons.org.uk.

Share your cycling stories and experiences with us by adding your comments below.