HP goes PD?

As someone who has loved the stories about the underdog wizard from the first time I heard of him, I am of course absolutely thrilled that the film “Harry Potter and the deathly hallows” recently premiered. Although I must confess that I haven’t seen all the films, I have however read all the books, more than once… (I belong to the strange sort of people who find joy in re-reading favorite books and the books I own that I have read the most times are the complete series about the hard working country vet in Yorkshire in the 1930s and 40s, James Herriot.).
However, the new film reminded me of my “Harry Potter-analogue”. Do you remember what Dementors are? If you ever saw one, albeit on film, the mere word probably makes your skin prickle… For those of you who doesn’t know or forgot, here is a short summary:
Dementors are the guardians of the wizard prison Azkaban and they are soulless creatures who will dement people encountering them for too long, hence the name. They are about 10 feet in height, humanly shaped, but wearing a dark hooded cloak only revealing their grey, decaying hands and faces with no eyes and a large hole where the mouth should be. Dementors feed on the happy memories and good emotions of human beings and the worst thing that can happen to someone is said to be the “Dementor’s kiss”, which is when a Dementor sucks the soul out of a person through his or her mouth.
These horrifying creatures, being blind, seek their prey by sensing emotions and when you are approached by a Dementor, you will freeze to the ground, unable to move. And should you suffer the kiss of a Dementor, you will be left an hollow shell, unable to feel joy ever again…… It is said that living after the kiss of a Dementor is worse than being dead……. Feels familiar…?
Luckily, there is a way to fight and beat the Dementors! By using magic, of course! Namely to summon a Patronus by using the Patrouns Charm. The charm is a combination of bringing back a very happy and powerful memory, pointing your wand in the direction of the creature and speak the incantation “Expecto Patronum”. Performed correctly, this will eject a silver light from your wand that will transform into your personally shaped Patronus or animal form protector, like a totem. Every wizard has their own Patronus reflecting the personality traits of the wizard summoning it. Naturally, since Patronuses are the corredponding physical form to very happy memories, what could be better to scare off Dementors. Wizards can help others being attacked by summoning their Patronuses to attack the hideous creatures.
Sometimes I humour myself by trying to establish different persons Patronuses… For some people it is very easy and for others it takes me a while. For exemple, if you ask me the obvious Patronus for Bryn, keeping this site the “Dementor-free zone” that it is, would be an irish wolfhound: (quoting Wikipedia)
“Of great size and commanding appearance, the Irish Wolfhound is remarkable in combining power and swiftness with keen sight. … An easygoing animal, they are usually quiet by nature. Wolfhounds often create a strong bond with their family and can become quite destructive or morose if left for long periods. The Irish wolfhound is relatively easy to train. They respond well to firm, but gentle, consistent leadership.”
Well… no, maybe not… I will have to try again…
“The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. … Male dromedaries have a soft palate, which they inflate to produce a deep pink sack, which is often mistaken for a tongue, called a doula in Arabic, hanging out of the sides of their mouth to attract females during the mating season. … Dromedaries are also noted for their thick eyelashes and small, hairy ears. Dromedaries are used as a beast of burden in most of its domesticated range. Unlike horses, they kneel for the loading of passengers and cargo. Dromedaries have a reputation for being bad-tempered and obstinate creatures that spit and kick. A camel will show displeasure by stamping its feet and running.”
There, that’s better!

As for my own Patronus, many have tried, but the general opinion is that so far none of the proposed animals have seemed to stick. Suggestions have ranged from lioness over ferret, blue tit, squirrel, rat, moongoose to meerkat (Timon from “The Lion king”, noooo… not the warthog…).
Suggestions are welcome.

Glasgow, city of hope and determination (WPC2010)

 By first glance, Glasgow might seem like just another city anywhere in the world, with its downtown glass-clad buildings and shopping area.

By the way, how come the Swedish clothes brand that used to be considered really low quality and that no-one in my first grade class would be caught dead in is all over the world these days? And speaking of low quality, would you believe that IKEA had the exact same reputation around that time (1978-ish)? It is two amazing success stories and I wear H&M as well as have a lot of IKEA furniture at home these days without blushing with shame. If PD was only a fraction as well known as H&M and IKEA, awareness wouldn’t really be an issue, would it…?

Anyway, back to Glasgow: Monday was spent exploring the city, Annika, Lars and me going in and out of shops. It seems a common trait for men all around the world that they by far prefer the Apple store to H&M. As for myself, I don’t discriminate like that, and late afternoon, I returned to my hotel, the very satisfied owner of an iPad. And then they say you can’t buy happiness…

Tuesday was the beginning of congress with the pre-congress courses on three different levels, where we learned “the fundamentals of PD”. The evening came and so did a very impressive opening ceremony. As far as I’m concerned, as long as there’s pipes and drums, I will like it. There are few things as pleasant to the eye as men in kilts…
After that the congress really took off and I realised that time does go faster when you are enjoying yourself.

The week in Glasgow was an overwhelming experience with a lot of emotional moments. I didn’t attend as many sessions as I thought I would, for reasons like prioritising having coffee with a new-found friend, catching up on some sleep or simply hanging out in The Cure Parkinson’s Trust’s stand. However, I don’t regret missing sessions, because what will really stay in my mind is meeting the fantastic people there, PWP, researchers and others. It was amazing to experience the hope, dedication and determination of the whole PD community.

I will never forget:

•    Bryn’s speech at the opening ceremony. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out on Bryn’s blog. “The fierce urgency of now…”, I still get goose bumps…

•    The scientific session where Roger Barker was talking about stem cells and other future treatments. I think that maybe a few researchers were disappointed with the level of it, but I think the PWP attending was very thankful for the crash course in future therapies. He really chose the exact right level!

•    The Brain Game quiz on Friday, arranged by The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. As a Swede, I had never heard of Tony Hawks hitching round Ireland with a fridge, but he did a very good job hosting it all the same. And I’m sorry Tony, but to me the bigger celebrity in the room was Dr Stanley Fahn, the man who diagnosed Muhammed Ali with PD.

For me, Glasgow will forever be the city of hope and determination and I’m already looking forward to the next WPC: October 2013 in Montreal, Canada.

Travelling to WPC 2010

My journey to the World Parkinson’s Congress in Glasgow could definitely have had a better start. I was travelling with my PD mates: Annika and Lars and we had done the sensible thing when catching a ridiculously early flight: we stayed the night at the airport. How I wished that I also had been sensible enough to check my passport before going to sleep…

I learned the hard way that there is NO WAY that they will let you on an airplane carrying the passport of your 7 year old daughter. Consequently, my poor husband learned the hard way what 6 am on a Sunday looks like. He was met at the Arlanda Express fast train two hours later by a VERY grateful wife carrying a brand new single way plane ticket to Edinburgh wearing a face blushing with shame.

After spending another few hours at the airport waiting for my plane, wondering if Annika and Lars had already had their first taste of any Scottish delicatessen and feeling a bit sorry for the Thai berry-pickers sitting in the departure hall (Thai men and women are every year drafted by Swedish berry-picking companies to travel from Thailand to Sweden and pick lingonberries and blueberries in exchange for very little money. Also, the Swedish berry-picking companies charge an arm and a leg for transport and accommodation, so the poor Thai don’t return to Thailand as rich as they expected to. The world is filled with cynical people…). Finally, I was boarding the plane, only to find myself back on a chair on the inside of the gate half an hour later. The reason was a malfunctioning gyro somewhere on the plane. We passengers waited patiently for an hour and then re-boarded the plane. This time I probably sat in my seat (25C by the way) for a full half hour, before the captain announced that the gyro was now exchanged for a new one.” However”, he added, “we have another problem, totally unrelated to the first one: one of the brakes isn’t working. Unfortunately, this plane will not fly to Edinburgh today.” Every single passenger on the plane let out a sigh of disappointment that was followed by a smaller sigh of hope at the news that another plane would land on the adjacent gate in ten minutes time. That plane would be taking us to our destination after refueling, relocating our baggage and checking the vitals on that plane.

I felt a distinct sense of déjà vu when walking from the plane towards the gate again and hoped that the next time boarding would be the last time I used my boarding card for this journey. Luckily, my prayers were answered and after a bumpy but otherwise uneventful journey on the Edinburgh bus 100 from the airport to Haymarket, I finally caught up with my PD-friends, about 8 hours late and not in the best of shapes in terms of stress and PD.

The day after, we took the train from Haymarket station in Edinburgh to Glasgow and had our first glance of the “armadillo” that is the big lecture hall of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) where the second World Parkinson’s disease Congress was being held. We were looking forward to the congress and wondering what the week would bring. I don’t know about Annika and Lars, but for me, the days in Glasgow forever changed my life.

Sara (aviationally challenged)