Parkinson and the upriver canoeist

Ihere are two ways to explore the Loire by kayak, from one end to the other. The first – in the direction of the current. The second: in the opposite direction, from valley to mountain. Otherwise more demanding for the biceps, the latter option is the one chosen by Guillaume Brachet, whose sporting challenge ended on Thursday 17 November in Roanne (Loire).

An unusual challenge, moreover, compared to his own: a researcher and pharmacist by training, this consultant in pharmaceutical innovation had undertaken this ascent of the river, at the beginning of October, with the aim of financing a patent for the treatment – of his own invention – against Parkinson’s disease, from which he himself suffers. Generally associated with old age, chronicity can also develop in young people, as we tend to forget. Slowed down in his daily gestures, Guillaume Brachet knows something about it: he is 34 years old.

Baptized “Parkinson-sur-Loire”, his project was initially based on a… metaphorical concept. “ Rowing against the current is like fighting against something that is inexorably proceeding, as in the case of a neurodegenerative disease. The only way to slow down its evolution is to go forward, always go forward. If we stop, we go back”, explains the amateur kayaker. Noble on paper, the analogy unfortunately collided with the instability of a wild and very difficult to tame river. Leaving Saint-Brévin-les-Pins (Loire-Atlantique), Guillaume Brachet hoped to sail between 60 and 80 kilometers a day aboard his carbon-epoxy boat, not a kayak stricto sensu but a Hawaiian canoe with a side float. “He was very ambitious, very naïve”is forced to admit today.

A kitten online

The strong current – ​​with a speed of between 6 and 15 km/h – thus forced him to shorten his stages and lengthen the jumps initially planned in Touraine, with his family and his work. Instead of the expected 725 kilometres, the man will eventually have covered only a hundred with the strength of his arms. But is this really the main thing, for the one whose life changed one morning in October 2018? When the neurologist told him he had Parkinson’s disease, Guillaume Brachet remembers asking [s]’scattered on the ground” in his office, facing the violence of the shock. “It took me three years to overcome it, to the point of not being able to be followed by a psychologist in this period”he says.

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