Donegal has the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in the country and numbers continue to rise with two or three new people presenting themselves with the condition each month. There are 381 people registered with MS in the county up from 266 for the previous period.
Catherine Peoples from Drumkeen is the regional co-ordinator Multiple Sclerosis Ireland and is this week focusing on the upcoming events which will take place as part of a fundraiser for World MS Day this coming Wednesday. Catherine who is a mother of two teenagers, John and William, likes to spend time with her husband William and keeping fit.
Catherine has worked with the Health Service Executive (HSE) for 14 years and has loved every minute of it. Ten years ago she changed jobs and began to work in the MS office as a case worker. She loved this part of her work. She could speak to families and those affected on a one on one basis and help them.
“I have worked for the HSE for 14 years. I began to work here as a case worker, the representative who would deal with the clients. I loved that. I still do a certain amount of that. It was my favourite part of the job, working on a one to one basis with someone who had just been diagnosed. I prefer the personal aspect that the job presented. I still do a certain amount of that but I also work with budgets and deal with the HSE,” she said.
Catherine enjoyed taking calls from those who had just been diagnosed, she would tell them everything she knew about the condition and comfort them with as much detail as she could.
“It is very rewarding. You hope that you are getting them the proper information following their diagnosis. It can be such a scary time for people and it is good that we can be there for them. They might have the entire, wrong impression of MS. You say MS to a person and they immediately think of a wheelchair. However, during my time dealing with the issue, I have never found two cases to be the same,” she said, Over the last 20 years, drug therapies have greatly aided those who suffer with the condition.
“No two cases are the same. So much has been done with drug therapies in the last 20 years. For me working with MS, there are as many positive stories as there is negative. Initially you assume you are going to have to give up the things you love. I always advise people to take a step back and take a bit of time out because they haven’t been well for a while. I strongly advise them not to make rash decisions. They may go back to work and perhaps reduce the hours or reappraise the type of work they do. There are always options,” she said.
Catherine completely believes and adheres to the mission statement of their organisation: ‘To enable and empower people affected by Multiple Sclerosis to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential’.
“We certainly don’t want it to take over our lives but we try and help them as best we can. You want to inform them of their entitlements, of the services that are available to them, to organise counselling if need be and if they so wish to get them in contact with support groups,” she said.
She said that in many cases people begin to re-evaluate their lives after their diagnosis and focus on healthy eating, exercise and cutting out their vices. She added that it was a young person’s illness and affects many aged between 20 and 40 years of age.
Catherine has spent many years working in the Community Care unit in Ballybofey and in the physical and sensory department in Stranorlar.
“The people that I have worked with over the years are a great group of people to work with. I worked with many people in the HSE and when I lift the phone or write to someone, in a lot of cases I know them, which makes it a lot easier. The hardest thing at the moment are the cuts because of the recession. We are partially funded by the HSE and we know that we are facing more cuts in the future. The numbers of people diagnosed with MS are increasing year on year so the fundraising that we do is very important. We have had to cut back on things which makes it difficult. Donegal has the highest number of people diagnosed with MS in the country so its crucial that we raise as much money as we can,” she said.
This week you have an opportunity to help MS fundraising in Donegal. Wednesday, May 30 will mark the fourth annual World MS Day around the globe. MS Ireland will join with other societies to raise awareness of MS and mobilise the public around issues affecting people with MS and their families. MS Ireland and friends will host lots of activities and events. Read more on: http://worldmsday.ms-society.ie/world-ms-day
Catherine and her colleagues are also organising a number of events in the county to mark the day. They are having a coffee morning in the Regional Office at 28 Slieve Snatch Close Letterkenny between 10am and 4pm and there will be a Tea/Coffee Fundraiser in Drumkeen Parish Hall the same day between 10am and 5pm. All proceeds will go to MS Ireland to help provide services to people affected by MS and their families in Donegal. Catherine feels that those who are suffering adversely from illnesses are the most vulnerable in society and that this week is extremely important in terms of fundraising for their organisation.