MS Therapy Centre appeals for volunteers

Volunteer oxygen operator Ozioma and new trainee operator Steve - at the West of England MS Therapy Centre in Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

The West of England MS Therapy Centre in Wheatfield Drive, Bradley Stoke is on the lookout for new volunteers to work as oxygen chamber operators.

The centre provides treatments and therapies to people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurological conditions in the Bristol and surrounding area. For over 30 years, MS therapy centres have been offering oxygen therapy as it can help relieve a number of the most common symptoms of MS.

The centre currently has 14 volunteer oxygen operators who between them run 26 oxygen sessions a week, Monday to Friday during opening hours. On average there are 115 people using the chamber every month. People accessing oxygen therapy have varying levels of mobility and care requirements. Around 75% of centre members have multiple sclerosis but the centre also caters for people with neurological conditions and offers services to anyone who would benefit from the therapies. Current members accessing oxygen therapy include those with broken bones, cancer, stroke, ulcers, fibromalgia, ME and Parkinson’s amongst others.

Doro Pasantes, centre manager, said: “As a small charity the MS therapy centre relies heavily on volunteers and the oxygen chamber operators are very much a part of our community. Over time they get to know our members and many of them have been with us a long time. We couldn’t run our services and benefit so many people without them.”

Team work

The oxygen chamber is run with two volunteers at any one time. The operators have different skill levels and it is possible to become an operator trained to a basic level within a couple of days. The number of sessions means that anyone with time to spare can train up quickly and will be able to help run sessions for members.

The role is varied, but as well as learning the technical aspects of operating an eight-seater oxygen chamber, there is also the care and support that is needed by members using the chamber.

The reasons why volunteers have become oxygen operators are varied. Angela, a long-standing volunteer explains: “The smallest gift I can give is volunteering. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces, it pleases me knowing I’m making a difference to their lives.”

Mike, who also helps as a volunteer driver, feels that “the atmosphere of the centre is very friendly and positive”. “The staff and volunteers are very supportive and with their help I was able to train as an oxygen operator. As well as the satisfaction of helping other people, it gives an opportunity to meet and make new friends.”

Oxygen therapy is a treatment where a person breathes in pure oxygen while under increased air pressure. Under pressure, the oxygen content in the blood and in different body tissues increases and it can help speed up the healing process.

Emma, a current centre member, regards the centre as a safety net. She uses the oxygen therapy for relief from symptoms. “The oxygen has helped me to be able to walk up the stairs more easily and participate in activities after work and at the weekends.”

The centre would encourage anyone who would like to potentially be an oxygen operator to read the details of the role on the charity’s website: and arrange a visit.

Required skills

A key part of the role is to talk to members during sessions in the oxygen chamber, providing much needed support, not only to the members but also to carers, someone with great communication skills and a strong willingness to learn would be the ideal operator. The minimum age is 18 years and all operators will have a DBS check.

Anyone wishing to discuss the possibility of volunteering is invited to contact Sophie Willingale, deputy centre manager, on 01454 201686.

Photo: Volunteer oxygen chamber operator Ozioma and new trainee operator Steve.

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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