Parkinson’s Disease advocate Emma Lawton – whose viral video of her battle with the condition has been viewed over 53m times – has unveiled a new video blog project to help promote better public understanding of health conditions.
A London graphic designer whose struggle with Parkinson’s grabbed national attention when she appeared on BBC2 tech-for-good show Big Life Fix has turned again to video to help raise greater awareness of the disease and its complexities.
34-year-old Emma Lawton, who was diagnosed with the condition at 29, has been video blogging about her life with the condition every day since April 2017. A year later, to mark World Parkinson’s Day 2018, Lawton unveils her new video project.
Every hour, two people in the UK are told they have Parkinson’s. It affects 145,000 people in the UK – around one in 350 of the population. It is a degenerative neurological condition with no known cure.
Lawton experienced the life-changing power of technology when she featured on Big Life Fix and used a bespoke vibrating ‘watch’ – co-created with Microsoft designer Haiyan Zhang – to help her overcome her tremors so she could write and draw.
She appeared on stage with Zhang at last year’s DigitalAgenda Impact Awards at London’s Barbican (see featured pic), and has written Dropping The P Bomb, a memoir of her first year after diagnosis.
Lawton has now documented the highs and lows of her past year, which has included everything from appearing on stage with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella to being sent for tests for motor neurone disease after a disc slipped in her neck.
Her YouTube channel PD365 has had over 87,000 views and features interviews with other people with Parkinson’s and experts in all elements of the condition, from sleep doctors to assistive technology designers.
Lawton, who has joined Parkinson’s UK as devices and apps strategist, said: “I always knew other people might learn from me documenting my life in this way, but I didn’t realise the extent to which I would learn about the condition, my symptoms and myself as a person. I thought I knew everything about my Parkinson’s but it’s been really eye-opening.”
As the vlog project’s 365 days come to a close, Lawton’s new project draws inspiration from what she has learnt over the year.
“I noticed that people with Parkinson’s were finding the vlogs and interviews useful, and in some cases, life changing,” explained Lawton. “I realised there is a space for real-life stories that people could dip into for information and that I had the foundation, PD365, to create something. It really made me see that authentic stories and a safe place to share them was key to coming to terms with a life-changing diagnosis.”
Her idea for threesixfives.com was born out of that realisation and the six pillars – friendship, confidence, clarity, solidarity, power and pride – which she credits with getting her through the last five years since diagnosis.
The threesixfives.com platform will be a peer-led support website to help those with various health conditions find answers through video blogs by people living with the same challenges.
Starting with Parkinson’s, www.pd.threesixfives.com will be a model that can then be replicated for other health conditions, creating a buzzing hub of knowledge and sharing.
To fund the site’s development, Lawton has set up a crowdfunding campaign to coincide with World Parkinson’s Day on April 11 and hopes, funding permitting, to launch later this year.
“I’m a big advocate for technology and social media,” said Lawton. “They’re vital tools in helping people with long-term health conditions live fulfilling lives. I want the website to be really intuitive so that users can find the answers to their questions or concerns almost as easily as if they were chatting to a knowledgeable friend.”
PUK director of digital transformation Julie Dodd said: “We know that the way people with Parkinson’s are connecting is changing and new digital platforms have a huge part to play in this.
“Emma has already reached thousands of people through her vlog project and raised vital awareness amongst the general public of what Parkinson’s truly is, not just to her but to the many people she has interviewed along the way.
“We are looking forward to seeing how her project can develop and bring together even more people affected by conditions like Parkinson’s.”
Support Emma Lawton’s threesixfives project via her fundraising page at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/threesixfives