An adventurous hotelier with Parkinson’s has completed an epic charity scooter ride from Tenby to San Sebastian.
Joe Sarrionandia, who runs the Strathmore hotel in the Welsh seaside town, and was diagnosed with the condition in June of 2021, has raised over £2,000 for Parkison’s UK Cymru.
The 55-year-old father of three feared his riding days were over after he received his diagnosis, but he subsequently found out that his condition hasn’t prevented him from going on his scooter.
The former Greenhill School pupil was joined on the journey by friends, Andrew Williams and Ian Thomas, who he has known since his school days.
They travelled down to Plymouth, from where they crossed the bay of Biscay on the overnight ferry arriving in Santander, before making their way on their Vespas to San Sebastian.
According to Joe, the purpose of the trip was to raise awareness of the condition, and to encourage those who have it to keep active, as well as to raise money for Parkinson’s UK Cymru.
It has been shown that being active can help those who have Parkinson’s manage its symptoms, and that it can have a positive impact both physically and mentally.
Joe said: “I got diagnosed at the tail end of the pandemic and I ended up going for a private consultation with a Parkinson’s specialist. Since then he’s put me back into the NHS system.”
“Originally after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I felt the low of you know ‘my life’s gone rubbish all of a sudden’ after a while and you think of friends, family and things like that, you start wondering about your hobbies and mine happens to be motorcycles.
“I started looking into people diagnosed with Parkinson’s and still riding motorcycles and there wasn’t a lot of information, not even on YouTube. So we decided to use this bike trip as a platform to put it out there.
“When we set off it wasn’t just about raising the money, it was about raising awareness of Parkinson’s and the importance of early diagnosis and also about keeping your hobby going.
Joe has also spoken candidly about the impact the condition has had on his life.
He said: “I walk with a limp and I’m on Sinemet tablets (medication used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s) and will always need to take Parkinson’s medication. It’s a lot to do with my walk. I’ve slowed down. I’ve gone a bit shaky.
“Believe it or not, when I’m actually driving or riding, the shakiness goes away.
“Keeping up with your hobbies can definitely have a positive impact.
“When I am on my scooter, I am concentrating on the ride so that my brain isn’t thinking about other things and my arms stop shaking and everything seems to work well then.
“Retiring would probably be one of the worst things that I could do at this particular point in my life. I need to keep active. It’s about having incentives to do things. I’m not ready to retire yet.”
According to Joe, though the medication he has been prescribed has had a positive impact on his Parkinson’s symptoms, it took him a while to get on the right dosage.
Parkinson’s UK says that it can take time to settle into an effective drug treatment regime, and it provides information about this on its website.
Joe said: “The tablets I take have impacted my life in a positive way. When I was first on them they didn’t put me on a strong enough dosage and to be honest I was really struggling. Then my other half insisted to the Parkinson’s nurse that she reassess me.
“So they had me in the hospital and they reassessed me, put me on a stronger dosage and it all seems to have kicked into place to a certain degree. I’m never going to be like what we all call normal. But I can handle what I’ve got basically. You have good days and bad days.
“Sinemet alleviates a lot of my symptoms. I mean I’ve still got a tremor but it would be really bad without the medication. With the ability to walk, I was shuffling terribly. That’s one of the first things that we’d noticed was my walk. I just put it down to a bad hip initially.
“It’s helped with my sleeping pattern because with Parkinson’s I had what’s called REM, so you shout out at night and you can act out whatever your dream is. You can move about in your dream whereas normally you can’t, your body just shuts you off.
“You could hurt yourself or you could hurt your partner. It can be quite frightening. I still do get the REMs, but not as it was.”
Ana Palazon, Country Director at Parkinson’s UK Cymru said: “What Joe has done with the scooter trip to San Sebastian is inspirational.
“We’re incredibly grateful to him, and all those who helped him for what they have done to raise awareness of the condition and to raise money for Parkinson’s UK Cymru.
“It is because of the efforts of people like Joe, we at Parkinson’s UK Cymru are able to do our work to support our Parkinson’s communities, raise awareness, and fund ground-breaking and life-changing research into the condition.”
Joe added: “There’s quite a lot of Parkinson’s about without people knowing. You might not know that the guy up the road’s got it.
“It’s about raising awareness that you can still do things. It doesn’t stop your life dead. If anything at Parkinson’s UK they encourage you to keep active, to keep moving.
“Parkinson’s UK also funds research into the condition with the aim of eventually finding a cure.”