Mum who had cramp in finger left “unable to move” by illness

A mum-of-two who noticed a strange cramp in one of her fingers was given a devastaing Parkinson's diagnosis that left her "unable to move".

Michelle Harvey, 48, first noticed that something was wrong back in 2009 when she began to feel the cramping.

Her symptoms included loss of arm movement and tremors – but it took five years for Michelle to be diagnosed with Parkinson's.

The former secretary, originally from Wirral who now lives in Warrington, shared her story to try and raise awareness of the symptoms of Parkinson's among younger people.

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One out of 20 diagnosed with the condition are aged under 40.

Michelle Harvey, 48, is urging people to look for the symptoms of early onset Parkinson's.

Without the aid of her medication, she said her her body feels weak and is prone to frequent cramping, leaving her unable to get out of bed in the mornings.

She also experiences bouts of anxiety and depression, difficulty sleeping, and bladder problems – all of which are wider symptoms of the disease.

The mum of two said that without her medication her body becomes rigid and she is unable to move

Michelle, 48, told the ECHO: "When I was diagnosed it was total shock. There's no history of Parkinson's in my family and I was only 42.

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"When people think of a generic picture of Parkinson's they think it's an older person's condition. It's quite misunderstood.

"While most people who are affected are over 60, young onset Parkinson's affects people under 50 and it's much more common than people think.

"When it's at its worst, my body feels like I've run a marathon. I become very rigid to the point of pain throughout my body.

"My arms, hands and feet twist in on themselves and I can't move. That happens every 2-3 hours when my medication begins to wear off.

"Soon after my diagnosis, I learned that I'd been having other symptoms of the condition that I hadn't realised were linked- loss of confidence, anxiety, bladder issues, depression and insomnia- it was all Parkinson's.

"My husband is at home as my full-time carer at the moment. The impact that my Parkinson's has had on the family has been huge.

"I've only got a small family and I'm very lucky that they are so supportive. I also have friends who care a great deal and will be there for me in a heartbeat. It would have been impossible to get through this on my own."

Although there is currently no cure for Parkinson's, Michelle recently underwent a surgical procedure aimed at mitigating the worst symptoms of the disease, called deep brain stimulation.

The surgery involves placing a pulse generator under the skin in the chest area which is connected to specific areas of the brain responsible for motor function.

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The generator then emits high frequency stimulation to target parts of the brain to alter the electrical signals in the brain that cause the symptoms associated with Parkinson's.

While she still has to medicate, Michelle says that the treatment has helped mitigate her symptoms.

She added: "The reality is that I was told that it was not going to be a miracle cure.

"My programme started this January. While I still have to medicate, the times between taking medication are much more comfortable.

"I don't cramp up as much and it has made things better for me."

April 11 marks World Parkinson's Day, which aims to raise awareness of people living with Parkinson's and their stories.

According to Parkinson's UK, 145,000 people in the UK have Parkinson's and more than a million are thought to be affected when we take into account those who live with someone with the disease.

1 in 37 people alive today will be diagnosed with Parkinson's in their lifetime.

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Parkinson's is caused by the loss of nerve cells in part of the brain which produces the chemicals that work with the nervous system to co-ordinate movement.

The main symptoms are involuntary shaking of parts of the body, known as tremors, restricted movement, and stiffness of muscles.

Other symptoms include depression, anxiety, balance problems, loss of smell, insomnia, and memory loss.

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