“Mam was the tom boy of rural Ireland, she could do the same as any man,” says Pauline Breslin from Ballinalee when discussing the degenerative, terminal illness, Motor Neurone disease and the impact it had on her mother’s life.
Aged 48 when she was diagnosed, Mary Breslin fought the disease as best she could but after a short two year battle it took its toll and she passed away at the young age of 50.
Motor Neurone Disease (MND) is a progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which causes them to weaken and waste. MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe.
“They reckon you have 1,000 days left from when you’re diagnosed,” Pauline clarified. “Basically your body starts attacking itself. Your brain sends a message but it is not getting through. You will want to make a cup of tea but you won’t be able to pick up the kettle. You lose the power in your arms and legs but your brain is fully functional all the time.”
As MND sets in, people can suddenly find themselves completely restricted in movement and ability. Mary was a very dynamic lady, which made the disease so much harder to take.
“She was so active and knowing that she used to be able to do something which she now couldn’t was a hard thing,” Pauline admitted.
Families living with MND sufferers also struggle to care for their once energetic loved ones.
“She stayed with us as long as she could,” Pauline continued. “She was home for quite a while and we were looking after her, washing her, dressing her, for as long as we were able. She spent the last year and a half in Mullingar hospital but we visited every day.”
Praising the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA), Pauline said that “they give brilliant assistance. They give financial support for equipment and the nurse goes around to houses to help make people’s lives and that of their families a little easier.”
According to local MND nurse Fidelma Rutledge, between eight and ten people in Longford at any one time have this disease.
“The normal age of diagnosis is between 40-60,” she explained, “but the youngest I have treated was aged 15, there are a few exceptions.”
June is Motor Neurone Disease awareness month and to mark this the IMNDA have dedicated the month to highlighting the struggle of those living with the degenerative disease and drawing people’s attention to the difficulties they face every day.
“Text donations can go a long way,” Pauline finished. “If everyone donated only €2 it would help.”
To make a €2 donation, simply text MND to 50300.