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.10

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10 of 26 portraits for @26miles4mnd Sally Light, CEO of the motor neurone disease association. We photographed Sally Light in October 2016. She is the Chief Executive of the Motor Neurone Disease Association – the only national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland helping people affected by MND and the charity your donations to 26miles4mnd are supporting. “I didn’t have a connection to motor neurone disease when I started here but now I strongly feel I do have a personal connection because I’ve lost so many people that I’d come to care for. Most recently in the last twelve months we lost two trustees from the board which was very, very hard. But I’m optimistic. Last Thursday for instance, I went up to Nottingham and I presented a long service award to a volunteer who’d been with us for thirty years. So those things give you such a feeling of optimism about the ability that the community has to all get behind the cause and really make a difference. I think one of the really important parts of the Association is the massive contribution that’s made by volunteers. We have these eighty-eight branches and groups right across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and they provide fantastic local support to people. They really are the heart of the Association and we couldn’t do a proportion of what we do without them.” ___________________________________________ To help support the work of the motor neurone disease, you can donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd #MND #ALS #running #marathon #Tallinn #motorneuronedisease

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Portrait no.9

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9 of 26 Hilary Rowberry Hilary Rowberry was living with a slowly developing ALS variant of MND and working as a branch MND Association volunteer when we interviewed her in October 2015. She sadly died after a stroke on June 9th 2017. She told us she had not heard of motor neurone disease before she was diagnosed and felt that she should have done because she worked as a nurse for forty years. She was amazed at how varied the symptoms of MND can be. “I just say that the brains not connected with the muscles and the muscles have become weak in my legs – in my case in my legs – but that’s me. There was another lady near here who’s one arm went completely and there are people who look perfectly well up and about but they have no voice. I find this quite staggering – the different ways it affects people. I’ve been to a couple of the big MND Association meetings and you meet all sorts of different people with MND. Some are quite obvious as they’re in neurological wheelchairs and others are walking around looking like normal and then you notice they have a device that helps them communicate with you because MND has taken away their voice.” 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.5

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5 of 26. Professor Martin Turner. Professor Martin Turner is a consultant neurologist based at Oxford University and is researching MND Biomarkers for use in drug trials. We interviewed him in September 2015. "The closest thing is Sherlock Holmes – when all the letters are dropping down in front of his vision and he’s assimilating masses of information just by looking at someone – that’s exactly what most neurologists do. We can assimilate huge amounts of information just watching someone get up from a chair, come into the room, how they introduce themselves. And that’s one of the massive draws of neurology because then you listen to the story. As a consultant 95% of the time, by the time you’ve heard the story you know the diagnosis. Then you examine the patient to confirm your thoughts and that examination in many ways certainly in MND is far more important than any test. In my research the buzz word is BIOMARKER – a biological marker of the disease activity. I’m looking for markers at the system level and that’s using very, very high resolution scans of the brain which both look at the structure of the brain and the individual nerve tracts and how they function – the individual nerve impulses that are being fired between these tracts – and looking at how that changes over time. If I can measure damage to tracts and show that they’re not getting worse or perhaps something that the nerve cells are releasing into the spinal fluid or the blood and we have some of these markers to measure and we can show that these levels have changed, we know that that drug (or we think) it might be working. I’ve never been more optimistic about better treatments for MND ever in my career. There’s more going on now than there ever has been. When I first started fifteen years ago it seemed intractable and now it seems absolutely practical, it’s just a question of when and not if." #mnd #ALS #running #tallinnmarathon www.justgiving.com/fundraising/26miles4mnd

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Sarah’s story

The 26 Miles photography fundraising project is drawing to its conclusion – a conclusion when poor old Cristian will have to run 26 miles!

There are people that we’ve photographed and interviewed who have not yet featured in this blog. One of them is legendary MND warrior Sarah Ezekiel. She’s perhaps the most inspirational person I’ve ever met – and that’s saying something because literally everyone we’ve met on the 26 Miles 4 MND journey has been inspiring in their positivity.

One of the reasons I haven’t blogged about our photo shoot at Sarah’s is that I wanted to avoid defining her by her illness. She was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2000 at the age of 34 but Sarah is so much more than the MND that has ravaged her body and left her paralysed and unable to speak.

She studied art and art history and at first thought that developing MND meant she would never paint again but Tobii eyegaze technology has changed that and she now paints with her eyes. Her pictures have been exhibited all over the UK and as far afield as Qatar.

Click here to see her amazing art.

This is a photo of Sarah and I just before her 26 Miles 4 MND photo was taken last year –

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Sarah and I chat before the 26 Miles 4 MND photo is taken a whole year ago!

A few months ago Sarah invited me to exhibit some of the street photography I take from my mobility scooter at a London exhibition she was helping to organise for the neurological charity Movement for Hope. She has a fun sense of humour and at the private view people became very excited because of a rumour that Russell Brand was going to visit.

I was sitting next to Sarah chatting when all this fuss was going on. I won’t repeat what she said about Russell Brand by privately typing with her eyes on her “Eye Gaze” assistive screen. Let’s just say it was quite rude but very funny!

Here are some pictures from the evening and of that famous surprise guest.

Cristian and I are attempting to shoot the last of our 26 photos in the next few weeks.

I hope we make it because Cristian has been accepted to run in a very special marathon. More on that soon.

On each of the 26 days leading up to his marathon we’ll be publishing one of our 26 Miles 4 MND portraits. Click here and support us by donating to help us reach our target of £2,600 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

 

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