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Conference a social outlet for disease sufferers

THE event held in Feakle on Tuesday was deemed “an outstanding success” by Councillor Pat Hayes, who chaired the health conference.

“It was an emotional day for a lot of people. It showed a very positive image of the community in organising such a wonderful event. The combination of both excellent speakers and the Irish set-dancing demonstrations were fantastic. There was a real international feel to the day. We were blessed to have the Italian delegation of over 30 people, members of the Black Sheep set-dancing group, who are a group of patients from Venice hospital. The Voices of Hope Choir came here from Dublin and it gave a real mix of music, song and dance,” he said.

The findings of an international pilot study, spearheaded by Italian neurologist Dr Daniele Volpe, offer hope for a better quality of life for PD sufferers and this hope was captured and embraced at the conference.

“It was heart-warming to see patients coming from all over the world and country to the event. It was the first time in a long time for some people who hadn’t been out of their houses. People feel isolated when they get an illness like Parkinson’s and this gave them a social outlet. To see them out doing workshops and at the céilí was wonderful.

“Mags Mulraney from Move4Parkinson’s spoke as well and she outlined there are at least 12,000 people in Ireland with Parkinson’s and there is a number of others who don’t even speak about it. When you take that combined with the families affected by it, you have 70-80,000 people affected by the disease, the equivalent of the population of Galway City,” Councillor Hayes commented.

He said the conference has put the spotlight on the disease and treatment of it.

“Hopefully, it will foster a new spirit of well-being in terms of set dancing, giving hope to people and to improve quality of life for Parkinson’s patients. It was a huge boost economically and to put the spotlight on East Clare,” he concluded.

Breda Collins, health conference manager, said the atmosphere was very energetic and the feedback was very positive in the wake of the event.

“We were so delighted with the community spirit and the volunteers that helped make it such a success. We had huge support from the community. The lectures were so informative and the feedback we got from people with Parkinson’s was that this was inspiring, this was changing their outlook.

“A lot of people came to me afterwards and said ‘I was feeling quite negative and upset about my condition but now I have a different focus’ and ‘I’m leaving here today with new energy and I’m definitely going to follow up and learn this set dancing’.

“I think people were delighted with the opportunity to try it in the workshops and to see the demonstrations of the set dancers from Italy and UL. I think it made a difference having the combination of the lectures and the workshops. A lot of them went on to the céilí, where they were practising again,” she said.

Ms Collins said the conference was “a wonderful success” and revealed that the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland, who attended the conference, are going to seek funding so they can running set-dancing classes for all of their members throughout Ireland.

“From my point of view, as an occupational therapist, we always believe that activity is good for you. It’s good for your quality of life and health and it is lovely to see how the neurologists and other therapists are taking recreational and leisure activities and showing how it can help you in your day-to-day living, with things such as your mobility,” she concluded.

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