By Liz Crudgington
A healthcare assistant from Birchington retrained after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease saying he refuses to let the condition hold him back.
Mark Bailey, 58, first noticed tremors in his left hand six years ago but the diagnosis was not confirmed until three years ago.
Since medics broke the news, not only has he embarked on a new career with East Kent Hospitals but he also raised hundreds of pounds for Parkinson’s UK by walking 70 miles in seven days. He has also trained other people in providing care for people living with the condition.
The grandfather of three, who works on St Augustine’s Ward at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, said: “I want to define the illness rather than have the illness define what I can do.
“I believe if you give up and give in then it can take over and progress faster, but by staying fit and active with a positive mindset I can help keep it at bay.
“There are a lot of misconceptions – someone asked if Parkinson’s was contagious – and some people do think that having a diagnosis of Parkinson’s means you’re finished, so I want to prove them wrong.”
Mark ran The Windmill pub in Ramsgate for 20 years, until his mother became ill with terminal cancer. He sold the pub to concentrate on caring for her, and after her death he and wife Liz worked together as community carers, visiting people in their homes.
He said: “I learned on the job while looking after mum and she had no complaints so, after she died, I thought it was something I could continue to do as a job.
“We worked as a pair but after a while we realised we had progressed as far as we could and moving on to work at the hospital seemed like the natural next step.
“Working on the wards is much more full-on than in the community and it is a steep learning curve but it was the same when I started running pubs.”
Mark and Liz completed the Ready to Care course together, before Liz joined the emergency department at the QEQM as a healthcare assistant. She hopes to eventually train as a nurse.
Mark, who lives in Birchington, said: “I’m happy as a healthcare assistant and doing my bit to make a difference.
“There is no real time frame for when my Parkinson’s will progress, but I could stay like I am for 10 or 15 years until it starts to get worse.
“In a way it was a relief when I did get my diagnosis because we had done some of our own research online and were expecting it. There were some really scary things online, and one site said I could be dead in five years, but we quickly learned to look at the Parkinson’s UK website for information we could trust.
“I have no intention of giving into it, and now I’m planning my next fundraising challenge to mark my 60th birthday!”