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06.02.2006 General News

JJ Has No Parkinson’s Disease

By Statesman

The Special Aide to former President Jerry John Rawlings has denied increasing rumours about his boss's health.

The former President has been increasingly showing symptoms associated with Parkinson's Disease. The latest alleged public evidence of this was on Thursday when Mr Rawlings attended the funeral of Oyeeman Wereko Ampem II, Gyasehene of Akuapim and Amanokromhene. He was reportedly suffering spasms. This has further heightened the rumour which started and fizzled out over a year ago. But Victor Smith gave a categorical denial when we spoke to him at the weekend: “There is nothing wrong with him, he's ok,” he said of Ghana's longest serving head of state. Mr Smith added that he was confident the Founder of the National Democratic Congress was not suffering from Parkinson's.

“I know that Daily Guide published something and you guys are trying to follow up on that. But I can tell you there's nothing wrong with him.”

The Daily Guide had reported last Friday from Amanokrom: “At a point, as the former President was walking to his seat after signing the condolence book, tears were seen in his eyes, and the hands visibly shaking when he was taking money from his pockets to give out to dancers heralding his arrival, as if he is having alcoholic problems.”

However, medical sources have suggested to The Statesman that spasms, which have been noticed on a few other occasions, may denote symptoms of Parkinson's disease, instead.

Overall, it is estimated that around 2 percent of people will develop Parkinson's at some point in their lives, although the mean age is between 58 and 60.

Notable sufferers of the disease have included Adolf Hitler; General Francisco Franco, Spain's Fascist dictator until his death in 1975; and China's Mao Zedong.

Yasser Arafat, the former Palestinian leader who died in 2004, was another famous sufferer.

Muhammad Ali, still widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, has lived with the disease for over two decades, without losing his captivating sense of humour.

Billy Graham, the international Christian evangelist, has suffered from Parkinson's for about 15 years, and has had fluid on the brain, pneumonia and broken hips as a result. He recently revealed that he is also suffering from prostate cancer.

The late John Paul II was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1992 and, although plagued by various illnesses and medical problems in his last years, he was able to continue working right up until his death last year at the age of 85. Parkinson's disease or paralysis agitansis is a neurodegenerative disease – that is, a disease which affects brain function.

The disease involves a progressive disorder of the extrapyramidal system, which controls and adjusts communication between neurons in the brain and muscles in the human body.

The best known and most common of symptoms is the tremor; of limbs, the head, chin or lips – although 30 percent of Parkinson's patients never ever actually develop this symton.

Increased tone or stiffness of the muscles is also a common problem for people with Parkinson's, as is an increased slowness in movement. Postural instability, leading to failing balance and walking difficulties, can become an increasing problem as the disease progresses.

Additional signs and symptoms which are commonly associated with Parkinson's Disease include depression; anxiety or panic attacks; slowed reaction time; sleep disturbances and altered sexual function. Dementia is a later development for between 20 and 40 percent of all patients and memory loss is also a symtom for many patients, as is a more general apathy and loss of interest Treatment for the condition is most commonly through medication; however, progression is inexorable, and the drugs are not effective forever.

Although Parkinson's does not in itself cause death, since the disease may affect the respiratory system, sufferers may eventually contract pneumonia and die. Immobility may also increase susceptibility to infection. Onset of dementia doubles the odds of death, as does depression.

However, many people live for 20 to 30 years with the condition.

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