Living with Multiple Sclerosis is a daily struggle, life can be physically, mentally and financially tough. That’s why this MS Awareness Week, Monday 24th April – Sunday 30th April 2017 the Kent MS Therapy Centre is appealing to its supporters to help fund one of the therapies that is really making a difference to people living in Kent with MS, Hydrotherapy.
Eleven years ago, Jill Tompkins, now 54, noticed her left side getting weaker, then suddenly she lost the sight in her left eye. “I was absolutely terrified,” she recalls. “I couldn’t work out what was going on.”
Jill was told she had suffered a small stroke and was given time with occupational therapists, plus exercises to help her regain her mobility. “I would go out for walks and do exercises, but I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any better.” Then, a month later, in December 2005, she started to experience further problems. “I still couldn’t see out of my left eye and the white of the eye became a bit like jelly. I was also having a lot of pain in my left arm and really bad pins and needles in my left leg, so I had to go back to hospital.”
Jill was given another MRI scan and more blood tests. A neurologist then explained she may have multiple sclerosis (MS) – a neurological condition that causes a wide range of symptoms including muscle stiffness, fatigue and reduced mobility. Jill had a lumbar puncture, where a needle is inserted into the spine to test the cerebrospinal fluid that circulates round the brain and spinal cord.
The test confirmed MS and in March 2006, Jill was given an official diagnosis – she has the relapsing-remitting form of the disease, which is characterised by distinct attacks of symptoms followed by a period of recovery. “I was really scared, as the future is so uncertain for people with MS due to everybody’s symptoms being so different. It also takes away the spontaneity of life, as I never know how I’m going to feel from one day to the next.”
Jill was prescribed medication to help with the pain and spasms, but her mobility gradually declined. “Although thankfully my eyesight returned after three months, each month something else seemed to get a little bit worse,” she explains. “My upper body strength deteriorated, then my walking and fatigue.”
I started walking with two sticks, getting vertigo and having pain in my leg all the time. Eventually, my neurologist explained my MS had become secondary progressive, meaning I don’t fully recover from any relapses.
In 2007, Jill began going to the Kent MS Therapy Centre. “The manager, Karen, made me feel so welcome and gave me lots of advice, and the members were a joy to be around – they are incredibly positive people and we all learn a lot from each other. I’ve made some lovely friends.”
Jill has hyperbaric oxygen therapy, reflexology and uses the hydrotherapy pool. “It’s all been incredibly helpful. The oxygen therapy helps with the fatigue, and the hydrotherapy is helping to build up my core body strength and improve my mobility. “At first I was reluctant to try out the hydrotherapy, but I had a trial session and was hooked. I love being able to move my limbs around more freely and felt a great sense of achievement, and people comment on how much my walking has improved.”
In 2008, Jill became a trustee of the Kent MS Therapy Centre. “I get so much from the centre, this is my way of saying thank you and giving something back. It is an incredible place and one I feel very privileged to be a part of. It has helped me to achieve a much better quality of life.”
If you would like to support the Kent MS Therapy Centre this MS Awareness Week, please download a donation form and post a cheque to Kent MS Therapy Centre or use the JustGiving button below.