Opinion: Michael Dyball has words of encouragement for other disabled people after his working holiday

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994 but had displayed symptoms for about two years before this. The disease was very aggressive and soon I had to give up my job and driving my car and riding my motorbike. I was really gutted about the bike, though it did explain why I’d been having difficulties turning right!

I was referred to the Leonard Cheshire Minories day centre in Newcastle upon Tyne in November 2001 by my social worker and now attend two days a week. I use the computers and am involved in its access to leisure and sport project. I enjoy my days at the centre because I can meet my friends and it gives my wife a break too.

Three years ago in October I had a pioneering operation to place an implant in my skull. It was documented by Look North, a local BBC news programme. They visited me at the Minories before the operation and returned a year later to see how the operation had changed my life. And it really had. The shaking is minimal and, although I still have some problems, they are controlled by my medication.

In June this year I was offered the chance to take part in a 10-day working holiday with the Jubilee Trust on board the Lord Nelson tall ship. We travelled from Lisbon to St Malo in France. It was the first time I had been abroad and I was accompanied by Gareth Partridge, a Minories carer. We travelled together from Newcastle to Amsterdam and then on to Lisbon where we met the ship.

Joining the ship is something I will never forget. We spent 10 days at sea and everyone in the crew had duties. These included manning the sails, covering a watch, mess duty (where I was lucky to be sharing it with four women who looked after me well), keeping the ship tidy and cleaning the dirty brasses. I was even hauled up to the crow’s nest in a wheelchair, an experience I never thought possible, but I loved every terrifying minute of it.

We left the ship and travelled home on a ferry to Poole where we stayed overnight, then on to London by train and back to Newcastle. When I finally arrived home I was exhausted and it took me a few days to recover. But I would not have missed the experience for the world.

I enjoyed those 10 days very much; we had lovely weather with plenty of sunshine and the sea was calm. We saw a lot of dolphins swimming alongside the ship and some had calves with them. It was a sight to behold. I took lots of photographs and it was the most exciting experience of my life.

I would say to anyone who has the opportunity to have a sea adventure like this: “Go for it! Don’t let your disability hold you back.” My philosophy now is anything is possible, all you have to do is go for it.

The ship’s crew are there to make sure you get the most out of your time on board. Thanks to my photographs I have a permanent reminder of my travels.

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