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Will you help people like Elaine?

23rd November 2020

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Elaine was at the fittest point in her life. She enjoyed going to the gym regularly, learning sculpture with stone and going for long walks. She was a young mum of three and absolutely loved to cook for her friends and family.

It was only when she started accidentally walking into doorframes that she thought something strange must be going on. An MRI confirmed the shocking news that, only in her mid-30s, Elaine had multiple sclerosis. She couldn’t believe it, she always took such great care of herself, how could this be happening to her?

Elaine did plan to tell her parents, but they lived in England so she kept it to herself until she could fly over to tell them in person.

She sat down for a lunch with her mum and sister, nervous to tell them the news she had kept to herself for so long. When her mum said, ‘I’ve got terrible news, my friend’s daughter in law has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.’ Elaine’s mind was going a million miles an hour. Her mother was so upset, she couldn’t tell her that she had MS as well. She flew back to Australia having never said anything.

For years before her diagnosis, Elaine had been learning sculpture with stone and she absolutely loved it. Creating something beautiful from stone was her passion.

Multiple sclerosis affects Elaine’s ability to walk and balance – common symptoms for people living with MS and the first symptoms noticeable to others. She uses a walker to keep her stable but balance issues and weakness in the legs mean that she often trips and falls, causing serious injuries.

Elaine explains, “Sometimes my left leg gives way. I want to lift my leg to get up the step, but the message doesn’t get through. My left leg stops responding to commands from my brain. I’ve had a few falls, tripping getting up the curb and things like that. I would tumble down and, at first, I was able to pick myself up. Now I have to call an ambulance.”

As her ability to walk and stand continued to worsen over the years, the physical demand sculpture had on her body became too much. She had no choice but to give up her passion.

A few years later, Elaine was talking about her love of art and how much she truly missed it. That sparked her decision to try something new and she heard about a local drawing and painting class.

Elaine says, “Before COVID, I had support workers take me to the classes to join in with everyone else. Since COVID it’s been more difficult with class numbers and social distancing, but I’ve been painting at home which is just as good.”

“I’ve just recently developed a tremor in my left hand and I just thank goodness it’s not in my right hand and I’m still able to paint and draw. If it was in my right hand I’d have to adapt and put the paint brush in my mouth.”

Elaine was living in Mt Gambier, regional South Australia. A four-hour drive from her closest neurologist and specialist MS services. As her MS progressed and symptoms began to worsen, Elaine’s Melbourne-based neurologist advised her to move to a city to be closer to the supports and services she desperately needed to manage her changing needs. She had no choice but to pack up and move to Adelaide.

Will you help develop exciting new telehealth physiotherapy services, and many others, for people living in regional and rural areas, like Elaine, to access from home?

By donating today will help us be there for people living with multiple sclerosis wherever they are, with online and telehealth services so they don’t have to face this disease alone. To help people like Elaine, make a donation here.

Once in Adelaide, Elaine immediately connected with the MS Society and our MS physiotherapist, Margot. Elaine had previously received several visits from Margot in Mt Gambier as part of the MS Society’s regional outreach program.

Regular physical activity has been shown to be extremely important in helping with mobility, fatigue and pain in MS, as well as reducing the rate of MS relapse and slowing of disability progression.

Elaine has experienced several falls as her walking has worsened over the years. She says that at first, she could fall and pick herself up again. Now when she falls, she has to call an ambulance.

Falls can dramatically affect a person’s confidence. A fall can happen in a split second for a person with MS, living with walking and balance issues. Not only can they cause serious injuries and pain, but people can often be left feeling embarrassed and scared to leave the house.

Since working with Margot to come up with a tailored exercise plan, Elaine’s confidence has increased so much with walking. She feels more stable on her feet and her pain is more manageable.

Your support will help fund telehealth services, including virtual exercise and yoga classes with an MS physiotherapist, for people living with MS who are unable to travel, or are in remote areas without access to traditional face-to-face services.

Elaine was ecstatic when our new virtual exercise and yoga classes were introduced as an alternative to gym classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elaine had never been able to attend our face-to-face exercise classes due to the travel so this was a great way for her to be able to join in without leaving her home.

She could exercise at home, with little to no equipment. Classes are designed for people of all abilities, so often two instructors will lead a class with one showing standing exercises and the other demonstrating a seated option for people with limited mobility.

“It’s one of the golden things that’s come out of COVID to have these virtual exercise classes, I think they’re just amazing. I’m doing two Zoom classes every week plus I try to squeeze in a Yoga class.”

“The classes keep me moving and my family think it’s great that I can exercise at home on a regular basis. The classes are chair based which is really beneficial for me. Occasionally if I feel really strong, I’ll stand and hold onto my walker.”

Your past support helped us rapidly respond to the needs of people with MS at a time when they needed us most. Many people with MS have benefited from these online and telehealth services that support like yours has made possible.

To keep delivering these essential online and telehealth services – and to reach all 2,500 people living with multiple sclerosis in SA and NT – the MS Society urgently needs support this Christmas. We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us. If you are in a position to help, please give a gift of $20 to make a real difference to people like Elaine. You can make a donation here.

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