Noel MacDonald loves how his wife, Marg Meikle, has inspired their son. And he’s proud his partner who’s known to many in Canada as “The Answer Lady” is being recognized for her good work.
Meikle recently received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for putting her face to Parkinson’s disease. She received a Vancouver Civic Merit Award earlier in 2012.
“It was just great for me to watch my son pin [the medal] on his mom’s chest. That was the big payback for me,” MacDonald said. “I’ve always known Marg’s special, but that’s just my gig, right. For our son to actually see that the government is acknowledging the work that his mom was doing was really, really special and a great gift that Marg can give to him.”
Diane Robinson, CEO of the Parkinson Society British Columbia, nominated Meikle, even though the money she has raised goes to another agency, the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute at the University of B.C.
“She’s just intensely proud of the work that Marg’s done in putting a face to Parkinson’s and in letting people know that everybody’s disease is different,” MacDonald said. “Where Marg is right now is not where everybody would be.”
Parkinson’s is a progressive disease of the nervous system which can produce tremors, muscular rigidity, slowness and imprecision of moments.
Meikle lives at an extended care home, by choice, MacDonald notes. She’s unable to move on her own or speak.
“She can still communicate, kind of, using the Stephen Hawking method of tapping on a keyboard and then having the iPad speak for her,” MacDonald said.
Meikle, who was The Answer Lady on CBC Radio in the 1980s and 1990s and has authored books that have been published worldwide, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1999 when she was 43. Her son Mac was 18 months old.
In 2001, she created the family’s annual Porridge for Parkinson’s fundraiser that runs in their Point Grey home.
The humble November event has raised a $2 million endowment for a “porridge professor,” or a Parkinson’s researcher at UBC. “It’s a bunch of friends getting together in what we would jokingly call a ‘bowl movement’ and it feels like a family get-together,” MacDonald said.
The breakfast provides a place for friends to celebrate and connect with Meikle, which can be difficult to do with a friend who has a progressive disease and has lost much of her ability to communicate.
MacDonald noted Meikle’s approach to life has rubbed off on their 15-year-old son who started collecting Pennies for Porridge, raising nearly $1,200 last year.
When Mac was in elementary school, Mac told his father they had a big problem. “When we find a cure for Parkinson’s, what are we going to raise money for?” he asked according to MacDonald.
“What it said to me is that what we’re modelling for Mac is that if there’s a problem you go out and you do something about it,” MacDonald added. “That’s always been Marg.”
MacDonald said Meikle was “speechless” when she learned of the latest honour. “She didn’t know what to type,” he said, adding, “Her mother was speechless, too, which is quite an amazing event.”
The jubilee medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne as Queen of Canada.