Princess Anne in town to officially open MS Therapy Centre

HRH The Princess Royal officially opens the West of England MS Therapy Centre.

Princess Anne visited Bradley Stoke yesterday (Wednesday 31st October), to officially open the the new West of England Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre that has been constructed on land between Wheatfield Primary School and Bradley Stoke Way (near Primrose Bridge).

The bespoke therapy centre for people with MS and other illnesses with similar symptoms opened its doors to patients earlier this year. It previously operated from a unit on an industrial estate in Nailsea, where it had been providing therapies for people with MS for more than 25 years.

During the visit the charity launched its £800,000 ‘Up and Away!’ appeal which aims to bring relief to almost twice as many local people affected by MS over the next two years.

MS is a disease of the nervous system that results in localised patches of inflammation in the brain and spinal cord which may eventually scar, thus scrambling the messages between brain and nerves. The most common cause of disability in young people, MS strikes people in the prime of life – often between the ages of 20 and 40 – and can bring severe mobility problems, visual impairment and speech difficulties as well as distressing cognitive problems like memory loss.

The new MS Therapy Centre in Bradley Stoke will make the charity’s vital support services more accessible to people affected by MS across the West Country. Since the new Centre opened demand has risen by nearly 50% with between 50 and 60 people coming through its doors every day. “This is just the tip of the iceberg though,” says the charity’s Centre Manager Doro Pasantes: “We know there are 1,700 people affected by MS in the West Country, and that’s not even counting their family members,” she says. “We have to be ready to respond to their needs and the new Centre with its physiotherapy suite, exercise, therapy and counselling rooms enables us to do just that. With public support we aim to help 450 people a year by the end of 2014.”

MS affects everyone differently, but is most often relapsing and remitting which means symptoms such as immobility and visual impairment may occur and disappear again without warning, lasting anything from a week to months, and in 10% of cases symptoms become more permanent and progressively worsen. Doro explains: “Left unmanaged, MS can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, particularly as it often strikes people so young and there is no cure. It brings terrible uncertainty, affects people’s ability to work, and can put terrible strain on finances and relationships.”

During her visit Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, met young mum, 33-year-old Lizzie Ranger from Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire, who had to rethink her whole career and life after being diagnosed with MS.

Lizzie first became aware that she was ill after the birth of her little boy, three-and-a-half years ago. She explains: “I felt terrible and had terrible pains in my arms, wrists and elbows and could not really use them to even perform basis tasks required of a new mum. I could not even drive or trust my hands to pour a boiling kettle for my son’s bottles. I did not recover and my symptoms and the deadening fatigue got worse.”

The final MS diagnosis took time but when it finally came Lizzie says she hoped that there would be lots of help and treatment to stop her from being in constant pain. “This is not the case,” she says. “There is little help available to help with the on-going symptoms on the NHS … and aside from your consultant and nurse you do not have anyone else to talk to about MS.” She says that since she was told about the West of England MS Therapy Centre she has not looked back. “Oxygen treatment helps with my fatigue, bladder, eye sight and general well-being,” Lizzie explains, plus the chance to meet other people with MS at the Centre have all helped Liz to, as she puts it, “emerge from the fog of MS”.

MS sufferer Lizzie Ranger meets HRH The Princess Royal.

Photo: MS sufferer Lizzie Ranger meets HRH The Princess Royal.

People diagnosed with MS receive limited support through the National Health Services, and so MS Therapy Therapy Centres, which are independent charities in the UK, help people affected by MS to manage their symptoms and to cope with the changes the illness brings and to maintain good quality lives despite the illness. “We are to people living with MS what Cancer Support Centres are to people with cancer” says Doro. “Like them we give people vital support which they just wouldn’t get anywhere else. We help them to regain some control over their lives and to live the best life despite their illness, mentally and physically.”

The Centre does this through a range of therapies designed to improve mobility, increase energy levels and help people adapt psychologically to the changes that MS brings. These therapies include physiotherapy, oxygen treatment and counselling for the whole family.

The West of England MS Therapy Centre relies wholly upon voluntary funding to subsidise the cost of providing these therapies which it sees as essential given that only 5.5% of people with MS remain in employment. Without this funding they would miss out on both the therapies and the social support which the Centre provides. Every £17 donated by the public will give another week’s support to someone affected by MS. Individuals and organisations are asked to donate towards the appeal or to email to request a fundraising event pack.

Photos courtesy of Mike West.

More photos from inside the MS Therapy Centre on PicasaWeb (The Journal)

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