Cobh man David Walsh has always been proud of his honed body, but, he tells CHRIS DUNNE, he now faces a fight against a debilitating disease
COBH man David Walsh has the looks and the physique of a film star. He treats his body like a temple, and he doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke.
Yet the 46-year-old is afflicted by a condition that is not always obvious, Parkinson’s disease.
“I remember the day four years ago when Doctor Niall Tubridy, brother of Ryan, told me to be very quiet,” says David.
“He said he had news for me that would change my life forever. I knew what was coming because I had googled my symptoms. I was not happy.”
David had an idyllic childhood growing up in Cobh.
“My dad, Michael F, was a proud Cobh man. He worked as a Cunard pilot,” says David. “Even though he and my mother split up, I always felt cherished and loved.
“We had lived in the USA and when I was 17, I fell in love with an American girl, Teresa. And in the throes of first love I decided to return to the USA with her.
“Even though I was relatively young, I had my parents’ blessing.”
The romance with Teresa did not last, but David’s enduring love affair with the United States began.
The relationship with the USA came to an abrupt end when David, who was working as a bouncer at the time, was stabbed after he refused entry to some undesirables.
“I came back home for physio and worked around Cobh,” says David, who eventually re-located to Dublin to work, where he landed a job at SamSara, a glitzy city centre café bar that sees a lot of celebrities come through its doors.
It was while manning the door almost a decade ago that David noticed a dull ache in his knee.
“Then it passed to the other knee,” says David. “But I didn’t give it much heed.”
He did, however, heed the dizzy spells and bouts of passing out and he couldn’t ignore the tremor in his left foot.
“Then I had a frozen shoulder for a whole year,” says David.
“Pains in my hip and my foot dragging just added to the list of symptoms that I was enduring.
“I suspected a trapped nerve, maybe. But I continued to work two jobs and go to the gym seven days a week. I worked through the pain, often ignoring it.”
His day-to-day function began to be affected.
“I worked part-time at an auto centre and I found my spatial awareness was affected,” says David.
“Sometimes I would nod off in traffic, and the fatigue was crippling.”
When he fell over one night at home while getting ready for work, he realised his condition wasn’t physical. It was neurological.
He received the dreaded diagnosis in St Vincent’s Hospital, but it wasn’t a shock.
“I had done my research, it was like there were a million things wrong. And I didn’t like it.”
However, Davis had inherited the positive attitude of his father, who passed away a few years ago.
He says: “When dad suffered a stroke I told him I’d remove the gate at home to make it easier for him to get in and out. He said not to dream of it and told me, ‘I’ll jump over the gate!’”
David adds: “I have no intention of wasting away.
“Sure, I worry about the future and that of my 14-year-old daughter, Emily Jade. But I’ll go down fighting.”
“Sometimes I question myself why I got Parkinson’s,” says David. “My dad suffered a stroke before he died, and my mother, who lives in Crosshaven, has BET, which causes tremors. And I have a cousin who has MS.
“But who knows?
“They say genetic is the loaded gun and the environment is the trigger.
David’s dedication to building up his body has paid further dividends. The man isn’t content with fighting the degenerative disease. He wants to help other people to do the same.
“Yes, I’ve cycled more than 3,000 miles in the last 18 months with a great team,” says David.
“I am blessed with loyal friends and I have wonderful support from people like Brent Pope and the Leinster rugby team. I’m a Munster fan by the way!”
David is currently suffering from a shoulder and back injury.
“As soon as I’m better I’m planning a row through the canals of Ireland to raise funds for Parkinson’s.”