August Warrior Spirit Award – Robert McIntosh
Our August Warrior Spirit Award winner is Robert McIntosh
“Living on a farm in Victoria as a child nurtured me to be independent and adventurous. As a young 9 year old boy, my mother bought me a radio set. This fostered my curiosity about many things. It instilled in me, a willingness to try things and there were many opportunities on the family farm to develop skills that involved problem solving. Armed with my best friend Trixie, a golden Labrador, I drove tractors, tinkered with repairs and even built a 16 foot half-cabin cruiser with my father. This resulted in messing about on the water at the local marina and added another skill set and a love of water.
A nearby flight school also tempted my spirit of adventure and at age 23, I was proudly awarded my unrestricted license that allowed me to fly a light aircraft around various locations in Australia with my wife and young family in my late 20’s. At that time sailing with my family became a passion and pastime that culminated in the purchase of a 46 foot, blue water, sailing yacht, which my wife and I lived on for 6 years, sailing up and down the East Coast of Australia and twice circumnavigating Tasmania.
It was on my last Tasmanian circumnavigation in 2017 that it was noticed I was second guessing my navigation planning and what used to be automatic response took effort and thought.
A routine check up at my doctor followed with a visit to a neurologist. This visit stopped me in my tracks. His very blunt prognosis had the world as I knew it, turned completely upside down.
Difficult decisions needed to be made. We sold our beautiful boat and needed to make new plans, thwarting our goal to sail around the world.
The first step was to investigate Parkinson’s and learn more about it. Scouring the internet, reading articles, studies, books and talking to people made me realize that Parkinson’s is life altering and there is no cure, and that medication can be problematic. I made the decision, based on this information that I needed to remain as active as possible. It was evident that exercise, re-calibration of major movements and to live a healthy lifestyle of good food, rest, relaxation and sleep was the only way I would be able to function and carry out daily tasks and to participate socially with family and friends.
In our research we also came across the PD Warrior Program. My wife and I were impressed with the theory behind the practice and decided to participate in a 10 week program at an accredited PD Warrior Program run at a rehabilitation hospital. I opted for an individualized program, as I was not confident I could cope in a group situation. This program was, and still is, the ‘corner-stone’ of my routine, and has provided a foundation of movements that I try to incorporate into my days, whether it is exercise, speech or in general.
Our second major step in my new PD life, was to travel to Europe for 8 weeks in 2019. We opted to plan and book our own travels, using public transport wherever possible [as was always our mantra]. We visited the Netherlands, France, Spain and Greece. My wife, a retired School Principal, ensured things were planned in detail, that allowed a wonderful, stress free adventure that will be treasured, but that also gave me the mindset that anything is possible. Our motto is “There is nothing we cannot do, we just need to do it differently”. Having not long returned in November 2019, little did we know or understand the implications of the pending COVID pandemic.
I already had put into place, a commitment to participate in a comprehensive exercise program – LSVT Big and Loud; a 4 week intensive speech and movement program on our return. This would build on the PD Warrior Program, with a similar ethos. I continued, and still engage with Jason online to continue to develop my PD Warrior skills.
Another positive is that I also work closely with a group of professionals in a Neurorehabilitation Network, who provide me with Neuropsychology, Speech and Occupational Therapy and I engage a locally based Physiotherapist. Additionally I have a personal trainer for 2 x 1 hour sessions per week. A weekly Myotherapy session, takes care of any aches and stiffness that comes with Parkinson’s. A highlight of my week is my weekly golf game that allows me to focus on personal achievement as well as giving my wife time out of her support to me, both in formal sessions and daily tasks.
Despite COVID’s detrimental outcomes that limit my access to small but important activities such as outings for dinner, coffee, gathering of friends and family, I have been fortunate that my speech and PD Warrior have been online and that my local Physio has been able to add sessions to compensate for no Personal Training allowed during lockdowns. I am also fortunate my wife has the capacity to facilitate and juggle all these appointments and to conduct home practice. This has generally kept my routines in place on most weeks.
Living in a small seaside hamlet, I am also grateful that I have been able to continue enjoying my daily walks of 3-5 km, most days. Our recent addition of Macs, a Toy Poodle [now 9 months] has also been a welcome, albeit challenging at times, distraction.
So in Summary:
To try to keep my adventurous spirit alive; variety always has, and will continue to be, the spice of my life.
My family is my world and all I do is for them. They give me courage, determination and purpose.
I look forward to continuing with my golf, sailing on boats with friends and family and some travelling in the future.
Meanwhile, I will do all I can to stay active, healthy and motivated!”
I’m finding these personal stories so encouraging and I appreciate the authors’ honesty in telling it like it is. As a ‘newbie’ I’m finding navigating the PD landscape quite daunting and have felt very alone. Now that I’ve found the PD Warrior community I’ve found a place I belong and where I recognise kindred spirits. Thank you.