Matt developed young-onset Parkinson’s disease as a young boy. Despite his illness he currently works at a publishing company in the Customer Services Department.
In 2006 he underwent the pioneering deep brain stimulation (DBS) procedure in Queen Square. Here is Matt’s story…
I used to love swimming as a boy, I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau’s Assistant! When I was seven it was my swimming instructor who noticed that my legs sank as I swam and I couldn’t stand up for long at school assemblies either. Mum took me to our GP and I ended up at Booth Hall, a children’s hospital in Manchester where I spent weeks having tests – torture for me at the time. I was only 10 years old. I was finally diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when I was 19.
Living with Parkinson’s was very hard as a child. While the medication helped my symptoms so that most of the time I was able to participate in the activities I wanted to. Although I look back on my schooldays with fondness now, I hated being different.
Over the years some of the drugs I took were pretty unpleasant. After being on one drug for over 10 years I began suffering terrible panic attacks – evidently side-effects of long-term use. I also had to inject myself with a drug which made me sick. Not the most practical treatment!
I had been taking all sorts of medication for 28 years and thought that was my lot when I heard about DBS and was recommended for the surgery. I had an operation at Queen Square to insert electrodes for deep brain stimulation. The electrodes are controlled by a unit fixed to my chest – like a pace-maker – with which I can alter the symptoms.
It’s a bit like being the Bionic Man! While it’s not a cure, DBS is easing my symptoms and reducing my reliance on drugs. It’s had a major effect on my life.
My day-to-day life is a bit different to most. I’m 42 and I live with my parents Alan and Meg. My family are a major help; I really need them for practical things, even something as basic as helping me get up in the morning.
Christmas is such a special time, but it can be tough. For example, I’m affected by the amount of food I eat, something that normally plays a big part in the festive season. But being with people you love and care for is vital, and I think this is brought home most at this time of year.
Recently, Matt was one of the finalists as a torchbearer for the Olympic torch this year and has been awarded a prestigious photography accreditation.
My life continues to go from strength to strength following my 5 year anniversary of my Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery. I am likely to need a battery change in the new year but I've so much to look forward to!
Despite not making the final cut to run with the Olympic Torch, I am still delighted I was nominated in the first place and I do have the consolation that I have been granted IOC Accreditation to photograph at the Olympic football tournament.
I continue to write a sports column in my local paper which I have been doing now for the past seven years and this is proving very popular, although I don’t get paid.
I have also been seeing Viv, my girlfriend for 2 ½ years now and my stepson is nine. I couldn’t be happier!
Following the success of Deep-Brain Stimulation for diseases such as Parkinson's, researchers have found it also helps alleviate the symptoms of other debilitating diseases, such as Cluster Headaches.
You can follow Matt's progress on his twitter page @MattEagles