Dorset army colonel with Parkinson’s finishes Africa trip

A retired army colonel with Parkinson’s has completed a solo journey through Africa to raise awareness of the condition.

Guy Deacon, from Sherborne in Dorset, filmed his 12,000-mile drive across the continent, which ended in Cape Town last week.

The 60-year-old, who was diagnosed 11 years ago, said the trip became “almost impossible” as his disease progressed.

A TV documentary charting his journey will be made on his return to the UK.

The former Bovington Camp commander said little was known about Parkinson’s in Africa, where some people with the condition believe they have been cursed.

He said he appeared on national TV and radio programmes “to get the conversation going”.

But Mr Deacon, who spent time in Africa while at university and in the army, did struggle to cope with the disease he set out to publicise.

He said: “When I was in Ghana I was in bits and pieces, had a bit of a meltdown. I hadn’t taken the right pills and was lost, I nearly ended up in hospital.

“But this fellow picked me up, had me to stay and let me sleep in his daughter’s room. That family looked after me, they were so very kind and generous.”

He said he never encountered any problems with people, and they “went out of their way to help. It was incredible”.

“The less they have, the more they do,” he said.

The retired colonel’s Parkinson’s means he cannot write “because my hands don’t work properly”, which makes “dealing with things like money really challenging,” he told the BBC back in April.

But he said driving was easy, as he just put his hands in the right place on the steering wheel.

As his disease progressed at times it was “not unusual to be incapable of moving”, Mr Deacon said.

“I’ve proved I can do it but only just. It was almost impossible, Parkinson’s nearly won,” he said.

On reaching South Africa the 60-year-old said: “The release of the burden left me completely deflated.

“I turned off the key to the engine, I put my head on the steering wheel. I was spent.”

“You were emotional Guy, your lip was quivering,” said film maker Rob Hayward, who met up with Mr Deacon on four occasions to help document the experience.

“It was really hard,” the retired colonel admitted. “But emotionally I thought, what have I got to lose?

“They’ll see me as I am. Nobody knows just how miserable this thing is. I’ve been pretty blunt.

“For a guy from the army to be in tears on camera is something.”

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