When the brush is mightier than the disease

How discovering art has helped one physiotherapist cope with Parkinson’s 

Richard Nash
Richard Nash clinical specialist physiotherapist works in an orthopaedic triage clinic Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

In the summer of 2018, I started to notice some rather odd changes in my right hand. When I was texting, I would support the thumb with my left hand and then use it to type. I was also aware that I could no longer type easily on a keyboard. Amongst the many daily distractions of life, I just ignored it; however, by autumn it was noticeable enough for others to comment on it and dredging my memory for some neuro learnt long ago (I qualified in 1987 and have spent the majority of my career in MSK) I began to suspect it needed further investigation. 

I saw my GP and a neurologist and was then diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Not ideal for a clinical specialist physiotherapist in an orthopaedic CATS clinic, I thought. I did have some fairly dark moments – a panic attack in the early hours being particularly memorable; but with medication, a great Parkinson’s nurse and the help and support of my family, friends and the trust that employs me I have been able to continue working, and most people wouldn’t really notice there’s a problem. 

It’s often the non-motor symptoms which are more challenging – I find I am more fatigued, anxious and often awake at 4am. What has helped enormously is art, especially painting. I am self-taught, and some of the paintings bear testament to that! But I love it.

I lose myself in the process and also, I like to think, it’s good for fine motor skills.

I was privileged recently to have two paintings exhibited in London as part of the Parkinson’s Art Out of the Blue exhibition at the OXO Gallery.  

In a strange way I am thankful to the disease for that – I don’t think I would be saying I am an exhibited artist without PD. Life can throw us many challenges, and often they come out of the blue. It’s up to us to choose how we will handle them. 

Some of Richard’s artwork can be viewed here

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