“For some people, getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is the end of the story, but for me, it made me even more determined to drive across Africa.”GUY DEACON
Meet Guy Deacon, a retired British military colonel living with Parkinson’s disease. Guy got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 at 50, which he said is an early age for one to have the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen with time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking.
Throughout Rtd Col Deacon’s life, it was always his dream to drive across Africa and explore the motherland. Getting Parkinson’s disease increased the ex-military colonel’s determination to embark on this adventure. “I wanted to prove to my friends and family back in England that just because I have Parkinsons’s, I will not stop what I want to do. That was easy.” Guy drove through Europe, Morrocco, Mauritania, the Western Sahara, Guinea to Sierra Leone on his own. With Parkinson’s, this was an arduous task, but he was always happy because he was doing what he wants. When he arrived in Sierra Leone, COVID-19 struck and the world stopped spinning for two years and he had to go back to England, leaving his truck in the capital, Freetown.
During the break in England, he met Omotola Thomas, founder and director of Parkinson’s Africa, who got diagnosed with the disease at 30. This broadened his perspective from thinking that Parkinson’s only affects white people in Northern Europe to knowing that anyone in the world can get the disease. “We don’t know how many people are living with Parkinson’s disease and most of the people who have it do not know what it is and they don’t understand it.” Guy’s journey is to raise awareness about what the disease is and how people living with it can make their existence better. Despite this extreme challenge life presented to the ex-army colonel, in 2019 Guy embarked on a 12 000 mile drive from the UK to Cape Town, South Africa raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease along the way. Arriving in Freetown Sierra Leone around the time the pandemic started, he had to leave his truck and return to the UK, but this was just a minor setback to him.
I met the determined Guy Deacon in Freetown just before he resumed his awareness campaign across Africa. His will and determination to do left every able bone in my body inspired to do more. Presented with a similar challenge, most people would decide to sit it out until the last breath, given there is no cure yet for the disease.Interviewing Guy opened me to new ideas, complimenting some that I already have. When I asked Guy what keeps him going, he simply said,
“The first thing that keeps me going is my mental resolve and I’m determined to do this…”Guy Deacon
Village boy with a dream.