Craig was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s at 50 years of age but spent years prior wondering why he had persistent back pain and stiffness in his right arm.
“Parkinson’s has been creeping up on me for a long time. It was only once my symptoms became debilitating that I realised this can’t be a series of unrelated issues. It was all connected,” says Craig.
The unwavering physical symptoms frustrated Craig, but it was his cognitive decline that took a toll on his everyday life.
“I really began to suffer with my mental health, particularly with depression and anxiety.”
On top of trying to keep up with his work, friendships and young family, Craig was utterly exhausted from the uncertainty of not knowing what was ‘wrong’ with him.
“The uncertainty was crushing. Not knowing what life would be like tomorrow, let alone next year was debilitating,” Craig said.
Craig spent over three years searching for answers before he received a life-changing diagnosis.
“To finally have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s – albeit a horrible thing to have – was actually a huge relief.”
While Craig made it through an agonising few years, there are still many others out there crippled by the lack of agency and control.
Dr Andrew Dwyer is the Head of Imaging at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and a Radiologist at Jones Radiology.
Along with his team, Dr Dwyer is working tirelessly to help people like Craig receive a swifter diagnosis through the Parkinson’s Disease Imaging Biomarker Collaboration.
The collaboration brings together researchers and clinicians from SAHMRI, SA Health and the University of Adelaide to translate state-of-the-art MRI techniques and advance image analysis from research to clinical care.
Through a scanning machine called 18F-DOPA, the team is hoping to develop a unique single unified Parkinson’s Imaging Index that combines MRI and PET/CT data.
The team will deploy a statewide network for 18F-DOPA PET/CT scanning and maximise its future benefit through a Parkinson’s Imaging Biobank.
Dr Dwyer says no other 18F-DOPA imaging technology is available in South Australia, either for clinical diagnosis or research applications.
“Our research will provide faster and more accurate diagnosis to provide a clearer picture for patients and allow earlier treatments when they are needed,” Dr Dwyer said.
For people like Craig struggling to receive a diagnosis, 18F-DOPA PET/CT scanning could be life-changing.
Early diagnosis is critical to accessing treatment straight away and reducing the risk of disease progression, limiting the effects on quality of life and lowering long-term treatment costs.
“Every day, 40 new people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s in Australia and many more undergo a difficult diagnostic journey because they have symptoms that might be due to Parkinson’s,” Dr Dwyer said.
“Understanding each individual’s disease will allow us to establish new clinical trials of both medications and other therapies that improve options for personalised treatment.”
It’s not too late to donate! Support Dr Andrew Dwyer’s life-changing research and donate online here.