VANCOUVER—Since her diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease in February 2004, CUPE 825 president Maria Wahl has been on a mission of sorts.
Apart from stabilizing her own health—which she has done through a combination of healthy living and good medicine—Wahl been determined to raise awareness about the debilitating disease, turn up the heat on the federal and provincial governments, and raise money for Parkinson’s research.
On the latter count, she has more than succeeded.
Two years ago, attending her first Parkinson’s SuperWalk in Stanley Park, Wahl and her supporters raised $1,915. This year, the fundraising dynamo raked in a staggering $9,055.
“We did very well,” she said this week, after completing the 7-kilometre walk on September 10. “My daughter raised $650 at work, and her boss matched it. CUPE BC gave a big donation, and three quarters of the money was raised from union members.”
To raise awareness about Parkinson’s, Wahl has begun speaking at different venues on the disease, including a recent presentation for the New Westminster & District Labour Council.
“One of the biggest issues right now is drug coverage,” she says. “One of the drugs I take—Maripex—is not covered by provincial pharmacare. I’m fortunate to get the drug covered by my health benefits at work. It would be devastating if I had to pay for it. I’m on what’s considered a ‘moderate’ monthly dose, which would be $600 a month.”
Given her many commitments with her job, family and union activism, how has Wahl managed to keep it all together?
“My neurologist said we have five good years—a period when the disease moves slowly, it’s manageable, and we have good symptom control,” says Wahl, 52, about her recent yearly appointment.
“So I set myself three goals: to raise funds, raise awareness and go after the provincial government about its pharmacare coverage and the fact they do not cover a great many drugs in their formulary.”
(The formulary is the list of drugs covered by an insurance company. The Canadian Health Coalition, in a bid to improve coverage for all Canadians in need, has long called for a National Formulary for Essential Drugs that would use the World Health Organization list of 329 essential drugs as a model.)
“I’m also trying to get the federal government to come to the table with a real pharmacare plan that works for everyone.”
Wahl says she’s grateful to CUPE members for contributing, once again, to the walk.
“There were no corporate donations, so we have to work on that,” she laughs. “But union members have been generous, as always.”