Ian O’Brien lives in West Waterford, Ireland with his wife and two young daughters. He is 43 years old and was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease five years ago at age 38. Ian says “Pre-diagnosis was the most difficult time, not knowing what was wrong with me. I had slight motor related symptoms, but it was the non-motor symptoms, especially depression and anxiety that really impacted my life.”
Ian’s reaction both to his diagnosis and since is incredibly inspirational. Exercise has many benefits in managing the symptoms and slowing the progression of this degenerating neurological condition. Ian has embraced this philosophy as a means of managing his Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and found hiking to be his sport of choice. In June 2023, he took it to a new level with an inspiring fundraising and awareness adventure. The Eur-Up-Ian challenge.
Ian visited all of the EU 27 countries, and the UK , and scaled each of their highest elevation points, all in just 28 days. A race around Europe scaling Mont Blanc, Mount Olympus, Ben Nevis and Carrauntoohil to name but a few.
His aims were:
- Raise positive awareness of Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease (EOPD) in Ireland and throughout Europe
- Promote and Fundraise for https://eopd.ie/ and the services available
- Connect with the YOPD (Young Onset PD) network across Europe
- Promote the benefits of exercise for PD
- Have a big adventure with his friends while he still can
“Any diagnosis comes as a shock. Parkinson’s disease is perceived to be an older person’s condition. I am not old! Search the words “Parkinson’s Disease” on the web – you will see pictures of older people. I want to change that perception and make people aware that it affects many younger people too. Unfortunately, it is the fastest growing neurological condition and my story may become an all too familiar one”.
“The idea to scale 28 country high points in 28 days came to me very early in my diagnosis. A good friend insisted I climb Ireland’s highest mountain, Carrauntoohil. It acted as a metaphor for me. If I can get to the top of Ireland then I can get on top of my diagnosis! This European adventure will hopefully spread that message to others living with Parkinson’s Disease in these 28 countries and beyond.”
Eur-Up-Ian started in early June 2023 atop of Mont Blanc and finished back in Ian’s native country, 28 days later, on top of Carrauntoohil in Kerry, Ireland – the very place Ian’s love for hiking began, since his diagnosis.
EOPD.ie was set up to provide information and support to those living with Parkinsons at a younger age. Ian is a founding member of the EOPD organization.