A Swiss man with Parkinson’s who hiked more than 1,100 km across the Alps to raise awareness of the debilitating neurological disease is gearing up for his next challenge after undergoing an operation to implant electrodes in his brain.
Yves Auberson overcame muscle spasms and other symptoms to make the three-month trek last year. Setting off eastwards from Montreux where he works as a coach in a clinic, he scaled high-altitude peaks, passing cows grazing in lush green pastures.
Auberson was elected Personality of 2020 by the public in the region around his hometown of Nyon, near Geneva.
“What motivated me to do this hike, is that I wanted people to know better this disease that is really unknown. So I did something that I think was important and that maybe people will relate to. The fact that I did this hike, some people understood, more than I hoped, it went beyond our hopes,” the bearded 52-year-old told Reuters Television.
“It was very important to me, because I wanted to show that it is possible, even with Parkinson’s disease, to still do a lot of things. As I love the mountains, it was obvious that I would do this challenge in the mountains.
“I received a lot of emails, tons and tons of messages of encouragement, thanking me. This is what feeds me and I’m well-fed now.”
Auberson, previously a professional golfer, was diagnosed at age 35 in 2004 with Parkinson’s, a brain disorder that causes shaking and difficulty with walking, balance and coordination, and worsens over time.
In March he underwent major surgery known as deep brain stimulation to implant electrodes in his brain and a wire in the chest that sends pulses to reduce symptoms. He suffered a painful withdrawal from most of his 15 medications and expects a five-year respite.
“Everything has changed. Really, everything. I can do things I couldn’t do anymore. I have to be careful, because I did not heal completely. Well, I will never be completely healed, we know that Parkinson’s disease is not curable, but here, they gave the chance to have a new life and this is so great, because I’m operational.”
Auberson plans a fresh feat but remains coy: “In this new challenge, there will be a bike, a tricycle, I will have a customized bike fabricated, and water. There will be water and a bike.”
(Reporting by Cecile Mantovani; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Giles Elgood)