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Thurso man, 64, defies Parkinson’s to achieve flying dream with cockpit session

Neil Morrison, 64, from Thurso speaks about his Parkinson's diagnosis.
Neil Morrison, 64, from Thurso speaks about his Parkinson's diagnosis.

When Neil Morrison was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease he said his life changed – and strangely, in some unexpected ways, even for the better.

Four years ago the 64-year-old, from Thurso, had an unexplainable numbness in his face and said his eyesight wasn’t what it used to be.

He was soon diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease – and has been on a mission to live life to the fullest ever since.

He’s started globetrotting with his wife Jennifer, and even took to the skies behind the controls of a plane.

Diagnosis came as ‘bit of relief’

During his four-hour train ride home from Raigmore Hospital, Neil said it gave him time to process his diagnosis.

“You’re so scared it could be one of the other things the doctors are looking at,” he explained.

“But then you find out it’s a long-term degenerative disease—it’s actually a bit of relief. It’s strange.”

Neil Morrison

People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of the chemical dopamine because some of the nerve cells that make it have died.

It gradually worsens over time, with the main symptoms of body tremors, slow movement and stiff muscles.

‘Your life doesn’t stop’

Neil was prescribed a drug called levodopa which helped alleviate his symptoms and gave him a “new lease of life”.

He added: “Some things I thought were happening to me because I was getting old, was actually because of Parkinson’s.”

Fairly soon after his diagnosis, Neil contacted charity Parkinson’s UK, which put him in touch with his local support group.

“They were great because you’re meeting people with Parkinson’s and you suddenly realise ‘Oh, it’s an awful thing, but you can still do things’.

“Your life doesn’t stop.”

The charity, along with High Life Highland, set up specific exercise classes for Neil.

“One of the important things is to keep active because if you don’t it exacerbates some of the symptoms.

“It’s not just a shake, there are over 40 different symptoms.

“It’s kind of like a pick and mix, except you don’t get a choice of what you can pick.”

Flying planes, Europe trekking, and a river cruise

Neil is now determined to “go out and make the most of his life”.

He’s ever created a bucket list of things he’d like to experience.

One of those included flying a plane, where he got to experience being in the cockpit during a taster session with a pilot.

Neil and the pilot during his taster session behind the wheel of this aircraft.

Neil and his wife Jennifer are also visiting some of the major cities in Europe, having crossed Budapest, Venice, Prague and Rome off the list before the pandemic.

“We’re ticking off places we haven’t been to and taking the opportunity to do it now,” he added.”

Next year, the two hope to take a river cruise in Europe while checking out all the major Christmas markets.

‘Make the most of your life – you won’t get a second chance’

Neil added: “The most important thing is not to suffer alone.

“I know some people do, and they shut the world off.

“There is support out there, and you should go out there and still live your life.

“It is a degenerative disease, it is going to get worse. So, you really have got to go out and make the most out of your life now.

“You won’t get a second chance. And that’s why I’ve gone and tried, while I’m still fit and able, to make the most of it.”

To find out more, Parkinson’s UK had a helpline and local advisers to support anyone with Parkinson’s, their family or friends.

Get in touch by calling 0808 800 0303.


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