Portrait no.19

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19 of 26 Professor Siddharthan Chandran is the MacDonald Professor and Head of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh and director at the Euan MacDonald Centre for Motor Neurone Disease Research. His research combines specialist clinics with laboratory research on human stem cells. “I always advise newly diagnosed people to look at the MND Association website as that’s a very good website. I encourage them to sign up for research studies and I talk to them about research. I do that for various reasons, not least that we need it, but what I’ve learnt from people with the disease and their families is the value of research to the person and their family. Riluzole is the only globally licensed medicine and it is marginally beneficial – giving an extra one, two or three months to a persons lifespan. What everybody wants is something that will profoundly slow MND down. Even by six months or twelve months. Delay time for breathing support, for feeding support. It would be spectacular if we could buy a year! I’m professionally an optimist. I’ve seen great change in my career time in other diseases – MS has undergone a revolution in treatment since I was at medical school. I think MND is ripe for change and it would be terrific to contribute to that. I’m also hopeful because all the people I meet with the disease and all the families are up for promoting and enabling research. They want it. They need it. The least we can do is try and meet their expectations. My ambition, and the reason for coming up to Edinburgh (it wasn’t for the weather) is because Edinburgh has made a claim and has prioritised and continues to make strategic investments in this emerging area of medicine called regenerative medicine. There will come a day when neurologists will not only slow MND down and stop it, but in some instances begin to devise ways that you can restore and give back, to an extent, that which has been lost. I’m a great believer in that. I think it will happen.” . To help the work of the Motor Neurone Disease Association donate via our Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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To support the work of the MND Association, donate here – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

or text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thank you 🙂

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Portrait no.11

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11 of 26. Karen Morrison, professor of neurology at University Hospital Southampton. When interviewed in 2016, Professor Karen Morrison was Bloomer Professor of Neurology, University of Birmingham and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. She’s now Associate Dean, Education and Student Experience, Professor of Neurology and Director of Education, Honorary Consultant Neurologist at University Hospital Southampton. She was the specialist who confirmed Miles’s diagnosis of primary lateral sclerosis variant MND in 2013. “I have seen hundreds if not thousands of people with MND and every one of them is an individual. As I’ve got older and wiser I realise that just the interaction with the individual patients is what counts as being a good doctor for them. Yes, we have been working towards finding effective treatments but actually at the end of the day patients want you to be a good doctor above all, and certainly that’s what I feel I have in my control at the moment. We don’t have a treatment that stops the neurodegeneration. If only we had a treatment that slowed it down so that even if it progressed, if it progressed over thirty or forty years on average, that would be a real step forwards. So we don’t have that, but our knowledge about what causes the disease has increased so much over the last twenty years. I do think that treatments that really will make a difference will be here within the next ten years. From my experience, people with MND can live with such spirit. I’m a big advocate of never giving up hope and actually there’s much more to a fulfilled life than being able to wiggle your big toe! I am constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit in the face of this disease. I think it's really important that everyone, doctors included, travels with hope because I think travelling hopefully is a so much better way to travel than to travel with none.” ___________________________________________ Help find an effective treatment for MND by donating here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #MND #ALS #running #marathon #Tallinn #motorneuronedisease

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Portrait no.8

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8 of 26. Michael Wenham. Michael Wenham worked as an English teacher before training as a vicar. For many years he was the vicar of three village churches in Oxfordshire before MND caused him to retire. He’s been living with the primary lateral sclerosis form of motor neurone disease for more than eighteen years. A journal written throughout his illness has been turned into a book called “My Donkey Body”. It tracks the despair he’s felt at times as his body gives up, and the darkness that descends as his mind feels trapped. “I didn’t want to preach, nor give false comfort. I just wanted to say this is a bit what it’s like. It’s pretty awful. But it’s not all darkness. I feel grateful, apprehensive and occasionally very tired! The worst thing about living with PLS is the frustration and its prolonged nature. The good thing is being forced off the treadmill of activity. My consultant is right – There are pluses and minuses about living with PLS as opposed to ALS – It's a long haul living with PLS.” www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #mnd #pls #als #PrimaryLateralSclerosis #running #TallinnMarathon

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Portrait no.4

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4 of 26 Ian Pratt. In 2012 at the age of 42, UK based Australian Ian Pratt was diagnosed with the ALS variant of motor neurone disease. “I used to have really severe muscle cramps and twitches for no reason. I’d be sitting there in the lounge, my wife Catherine would be lying on my arm and she’d say ‘oh your arms twitching’. So that’s how it started. I insisted on a copy of my referral letter and in it they queried whether it might be motor neurone disease. I had no idea what motor neurone disease was. I did a Google search and that was when I found out about MND. When I read that my heart really sank, but you know unfortunately everything fitted. It’s the only diagnosis that comes with this apology: ‘I’m sorry to tell you that you have motor neurone disease and there’s bugger all I can do to help you'. But I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy. Yes it’s sad that I wont be here to enjoy lots of things but it's not a definite for me any more because there is lots of hope out there and my hope is that they’ll find a cure for this thing in my lifetime." . www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #mnd #running #mnda #tallinnmarathon

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A 26 Miles road trip…

…actually a lot more than twenty-six

The challenge of 26 Miles 4 MND is for Cristian Barnett and myself to collect the stories of twenty-six people connected by the condition called motor neurone disease – from eminent professors to people living with MND and many interesting and often surprising people in-between. There will be twenty six stories, twenty six photographs and a lot more as well.

A few days ago Cristian and I travelled nearly a thousand miles in three days to get four more stories for the collection. It’s left me very tired and I should be resting but I’m aching (literally!) to get this blog post done because we again met some really inspirational people.

In Edinburgh we photographed Euan MacDonald and Professor Siddharthan Chandran of the Euan MacDonald MND centre.

 

The day before, we visited SITraN in Sheffield and met Dame Professor Pamela Shaw and children’s author Suzanne Maguire who are also supporting 26 Miles 4 MND. All of these people in their own ways are doing their bit to try to rid the world of motor neurone disease.

SITran and the Aubergine van.

The amazing “Mr B” did all the driving and miraculously fitted in two training runs in preparation for his marathon in September. That twenty-six mile run will be the culmination of the fundraising part of the project! – please donate here!!!!

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Driving home we were treated to some beautiful scenery –

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A marathon project

26 Miles was meant to take six months but three years on, after a lot of hard work and mileage, it’s only just nearing the finishing line. Many wonderful, talented and often extremely busy people have given us their time to take part. We thank them all.

A “26 Miles” book?

There’s work to do yet, and I wish we could include even more people but we’re hitting against that magic number 26 now. I’m currently transcribing and editing down the interviews, Cristian will be processing the main photos. A talented designer has offered her services and excitingly it looks like the project will become a book.

We want to make the book an approachable, entertaining resource for people touched by MND and also a tool to raise awareness amongst the general public. It will also include interviews and photos of the celebrities who have supported us – including Kim Wilde!

Money raised from “26 Miles”, which includes sponsorship for Cristian’s marathon run and any money made from the book, will go to the MND Association.

We have a Just Giving Page and donations can be made by mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Please help us to end one of the cruellest diseases known by donating and sharing the word about our 26 Miles 4 MND project.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the MND Association. Let’s see if that can be the year when we have a big breakthrough for a treatment!

Some facts:

There is still no cure for MND and no effective treatment. As things are right now, it is arguably the cruellest of all diseases: All forms of MND lead to increasing paralysis taking away a persons independence and more often than not taking away their voice. It kills most sufferers within 2 years of diagnosis yet at any one time there are 5,000 people in the UK with MND – so it’s not rare! There is up to a 1 in 300 lifetime risk of developing MND. It affects over 400,000 of the world’s population and kills over 100,000 every year.

So please spread the word and if you can donate here. Thank you 🙂

Putting the MND message out there

A couple of months ago I was asked to write a contribution for a book from the point of view of somebody with motor neurone disease. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges were celebrating their 20th anniversary with a publication called 20 / 20 that looked at the past and future twenty years of healthcare.

Miles in book

I really appreciate the MND Association for passing my details onto the book’s creators. It’s given us another opportunity to create publicity about motor neurone disease – an illness that can seem like a taboo subject in non MND circles.

Expecting a tiny photo and a short paragraph I was bowled over to see that I’d been given a double page spread near the front of the book. It’s wonderful that my contribution will be read by a lot of health professionals who might not otherwise think about MND.

The launch was at the House of Lords on the hottest day of the summer so far. Here I am braving the sun before ducking back inside for another canapé.

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Chris Van Tulleken (of twin brother TV doctors fame) was at the reception and I got to chat with him about MND. He admitted that, like most doctors, he actually had very little knowledge about it. That’s not surprising when you consider on average a GP will refer only one or two patients with suspected MND to a neurologist in their whole career.

He seemed like a great guy and was genuinely interested. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could feature MND in one of his TV items? – I’m going to email the MND Association VIP department and ask them to make contact.

I also found a new portrait subject for the 26 Miles 4 MND project – The Academy’s publications manager Rosie Carlow whose father sadly died of ALS.

You know, I am no longer amazed that virtually everyone I speak to knows someone who has been affected by MND. It is definitely not the rare condition we’ve always been told it is.

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26 Miles 4 MND – Near the finishing line!

Cristian and I expect to have all the photos finished before the end of the year and we now hope to exhibit them at an Academy of Medical Royal Colleges venue too…..all exciting stuff.

I also have a backlog of blog posts from behind the scenes of our photo shoots arriving here very soon. Keep watching this space.

It’s a photographic marathon but we are reaching the home stretch!

Don’t forget, the money we’re raising is helping the Motor Neurone Disease Association  – the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.

If you want a reminder of what we are all about, click HERE.

Nearly a thousand pounds has already gone to the MND Association. If you’d like to help us achieve our goal of £2,600 here is the link to our donation page or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

 

A resurrected friendship

Just before Easter I spent the weekend with an old friend of mine who’s supporting the 26 Miles 4 MND project. He happens to be a successful actor these days, and the husband of Kim Wilde.

Here’s a picture of Hal and I relaxing in the jacuzzi that’s in their back yard –

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“Cheers”

Hal Fowler was my best mate during our teenage school years. At the time our lives felt very creative, quite chaotic and we enjoyed breaking the rules. In truth though it was all fairly innocent and we never actually went too far: We ended up in hospital just once due to too much “high spirits” and although we had a few encounters with the police, we were never actually arrested!

The best months were the ones we had off school to revise for our “O” and “A” levels. Not much revision got done – They were sunny summers and we spent most of the time getting pissed, pushing boundaries and pulling girls. Needless to say Hal and I both ended up “qualification challenged”, though in our individual ways that hasn’t held either of us back in life.

To be honest it was mostly Hal who did the pulling girls. He seemed to have the knack. It was a knack that continued after school, through his time at drama college and then onto the West End stage. Whilst acting in The Who’s musical Tommy, Hal “pulled” Kim Wilde. At that precise moment his pulling career ended. They fell in love and the rest, as they say, is history.

picking up where we left off

Apart from going to each others weddings, there was little contact between Hal and I in 27 years. Then I sent Hal a text about the “26 Miles” project raising money for the MND Association and he agreed to get involved. It’s resurrected our friendship which happily these days is a bit less hedonistic.

Hal regularly appears on stage, TV and the big screen. He’s acted in West End musicals and is currently playing Cheshire Cat in wonder.land at the National Theatre.

Years before Hal’s professional performing career we’d perform together in our home city of Oxford – busking – I’d sing and play guitar, Hal would sing and accompany on his double bass. We were good at it too! We’d get there and back in a battered Citroen 2 CV with the neck of Hal’s bass sticking through the open sun roof. All of the money was spent in the pub later. Fun times!

There are no pictures of us in that 2 CV, but here are some behind the scenes shots from the morning Cristian and I spent at Hal and Kim’s taking their 26 Miles portraits. We resurrected our busking duo for the day – I think you can see that we still have “it”… whatever “it” is….

(Click on the first picture to enter the gallery)

Cristian and I are having fun on our “26 Miles” journey and we hope you enjoy following us on this blog, but the reason we are doing it is deadly serious. We are trying to raise £2,600.00, or more, for the Motor Neurone Disease Association – the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.

Click HERE for the background to our money raising campaign.

MND is a terrifyingly cruel disease that can leave people locked in a failing body, unable to move, talk, swallow and eventually breathe. It kills a third of people within a year and more than half within two years of diagnosis.

If you’d like to help us achieve our goal here is the link to our donation page or you can donate via your mobile phone – Text ‘mmnd99 £5.00‘ (or whatever you can afford) to 70070 

Thanks so much for reading 🙂