in December 1979 I was born in the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh. Immediately there was a problem with my breathing and I was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. They were able to keep me on the straight and narrow. Thus began my 40 year journey with the NHS.
After medical check ups and examinations, I was diagnosed 18 months later with a rare disease called Mucopolysaccharide Morquio. With the complications that this can bring me, I was kept an eye on by my local GP in Gortin and Consultant in Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.
At the beginning of the 1990s, it was decided that the bones in my neck were unstable and one substantial knock could leave me paralysed from the neck down, so I was sent to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in London. I was to get a bone graft from my legs to strengthen my neck. This meant I had to get a halo secured to my skull and body so I couldn’t move my head and spend a prolonged time in RNOH and Musgrave Park.
Thankfully the operation was a success and I retained a good level of mobility and independence.
Over the years, the NHS were able to supply me with differing wheelchairs as my ability to walk started to deteriorate. From walking frame, to manual and electric wheelchairs. This gave me the chance to live the full life I have now and to reach my potential as a person.
As a teen and young adult years during the 90s and 2000s, my health remained pretty steady and I was in good shape, but I was always in and out of hospital to ensure that I was progressing well and that my MPS Morquio wasn’t hitting me hard.
In 2009 I could feel myself starting to slow down a bit. Too slow for a regular 29 year old. I still enjoyed life and was able to enjoy all the things I had done up until this point. Then 2010 arrived and my life changed forever.
I was returning on a flight from Lourdes when I collapsed on the airplane somewhere over the English Channel. I was revived by the NHS staff who were on the plane and once we made the emergency landing at Belfast International Airport, I was given a police escort to Antrim Area Hospital in an ambulance. Here, the medical staffs were able to ensure that I was back to reasonable health.
At this point, my health had taken a big hit and I would never to able to return to the full health I had enjoyed before. I was put on oxygen at night to help regulate my breathing during my sleep and put on a strict diet (that I wasn’t personally strict with). Slowly I started to improve and a Nippy 3+ ventilator replaced my nightly oxygen at night.
Several years later, I felt that things weren’t right. I was slowing up and struggling to catch a breath, this resulted in my collapsing one morning and being rushed to Altnagelvin Area Hospital and was putting into ICU for a short period. I remained in hospital for a further two weeks, whilst the Doctors and Nurses looked after me with great care and attention.
Again I recovered and my health was stable. I heard of a new drug what was EMA and FDA approved and was in use in many countries across the world for my disability – Vimizim. It wasn’t approved by the NHS, but took a lot of work, time and effort of campaigning, but the NHS eventually said Yes.
Vimizim has made a huge difference to my life. a lot of my energy and strength has returned to me. Whilst I will never be as fit as I was in my 20s, not many in our 40s are, so I accept that and I am thankful for my health.
There are many other medical medications, procedures and equipment I have got to help my life over the years from the NHS. Without the NHS, I would not be the man I am today, without the NHS, I would not be able to do the things I do today. Without the NHS, I would not have the quality of life I have today. Without the NHS; I might not be alive today.
So this Thursday, when you go to vote in the UK General Election, please remember the NHS. Do not allow the NHS to be stripped apart and sold for parts. Vote to save the NHS.