It’s not the first time I sit back at night and go over past moments that left me inspired and willed me forward to do more, much more.
As societies go, there’s a lot of goodwill in MS Ireland, our national MS society. There are also hard facts that tell you that this is a group of outstanding people working towards one goal only: to significantly improve the lives of those living with multiple sclerosis, including their families.
Focused on advocacy, service provision, education and research as well as spreading awareness, you simply cannot find a more informed, social and gifted charity. As one of the society’s members and resident bloggers, not only am I very proud to know them, but I can also vouch for all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
In fact, in 2008 the Care Centre, Ireland’s only dedicated respite and therapy centre for people with MS, earned an EIQA national quality and excellence award. Before Dáil Éireann took more than was manageable during the recession, the Care Centre’s positive environment as well as the high standard of care welcomed a myriad of people with MS throughout the year.
Severe budget cuts since however have eroded much-needed services to what was a full-time hero of MS Ireland, the MS Care Centre. This meant that they had to cut back on opening hours, and apply some very creative thinking on how to balance their finances while finding new ways to bring in more resources.
Despite all this, the Care Centre was awarded CHKS accreditation, aligning the Centre with international best-practice in healthcare facilities during the recession, showing MS Ireland’s strong commitment to those they work for. And on they go.
The MS Society’s mission is “To enable and empower people affected by Multiple Sclerosis to live the life of their choice to their fullest potential.” Their objectives also tell this, “MS Ireland has a vision of Irish society where all people affected MS live positive and active lives in the community.”
And this is exactly what they do. Never have I known a society employing people with such soft, quiet strength. Am I biased because of my own illness? I could be, but I would speak similarly if MS would reside in someone else’s brain instead of mine.
For example, after being diagnosed in April 2005 I needed a break from the house and all that was in it, so I stayed in the Centre for a week. The fact that it was the only therapy and respite centre for MS and that they provided physiotherapy, massage, day trips etc. was all the knowledge I needed to convince me. It was – literally – just what the doctor ordered.
While I was there, I not only met 7 absolutely fantastic people with MS, but I learned to trust an illness that, depending on my outlook in life, would either make or break my future. Optimism shone from each and every resident.
Never will I forget Vincent, an elderly gentleman of about 80 whom I shared the dinner table with. He would not let me help him at all, and sitting in his wheelchair, he sang and he danced, he laughed and he asked me to call him once we were back in our own home. I still think of him, and perhaps always will. Sadly it was my only stay in the Care Centre, and I did not meet Vincent again.
I’m looking forward to my next visit. It’s been quite a stressful year so far, and I need some time to unclutter those grey cells residing on the top level of my physical being. Not having to illuminate why I do or don’t do certain things while talking with others with MS will be an added bonus, as it can get boring having to explain over and over why I cannot continue to be the maid of the house.
Aside from the Care Centre, World MS Day in May, the society’s National Meeting Day and National Awards in September, MS Ireland is also involved in creating social, cultural and information meetings all over Ireland. A team of about 120 employees and countless volunteers around the country ensures that no one with MS should feel cut off from society.
My own involvement has gone from being a spokesperson in newspapers to being a panel member on their National Meeting events. Being their blogger, attending conferences and lending my brain and voice just lets me know that regardless of nationality or level of disability, MS Ireland welcomes all, and year after year, they try to be the best they can be by helping others.
It’s a perfect symbiotic relationship, I give them what they gave me: my time, a choice and support. My voice speaks for those who for some reason or another, cannot ask for help. MS Ireland mapped out positivity and guidance, real social commitment and reasons not to despair when you have MS.
And somehow, MS Ireland in my mind became what Vincent already was upon my arrival in the Care Centre ten years ago, strong-willed and happy. Who knows, I might just find others who once met him, and perhaps one day, I can inspire others in a similar way.
If you want to financially support MS Ireland, you can donate specific amounts of money, and you can choose between a once-off and a monthly payment. Every Euro is spent on informing, supporting and caring for the MS community.
Interested in going for a wild trek, parachute jump, organise your own event or get your company involved? Get active!
MS Infoline: 1850 233 233
80 Northumberland Road
Charity number CHY05365
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.