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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

MS featured in story lines on both the large and small screen

bad days

Multiple sclerosis was introduced as a story line in top UK soap Coronation Street four months ago. That was when Johnny Connor (played by Richard Hawley) received a diagnosis of the disease. And that got me thinking about other portrayals of people with MS on film and television.

But let’s start with Cornonation Street. It’s Britain’s longest-running soap opera, first broadcast in 1960, and has never shied away from social issues. These have included drug abuse, wrongful imprisonment, and even murder.

Writing about the diagnosis on its website, the MS Society commented: “Leading up to this revelation, Connor had struggled with his balance and appeared tired and impatient. He agrees to see a doctor at the insistence of his daughter Kate (Faye Brooks), but then tries to keep his MS a secret from her and from his fiancée, Jenny Bradley (Sally Ann Matthews).”

He eventually admits the truth to his daughter but calls off his wedding to Jenny, as he doesn’t want her to feel obliged to be his caregiver.

Trainwreck, a romantic comedy with Amy Schumer, tells the story of a woman afraid of commitment who finally meets Mr. Right, played by Bill Hader.

The movie features Colin Quinn as Gordon Townsend. He is a fictional version of Schumer’s real father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Amy was 12. In the movie, Quinn’s character has MS and struggles with complications of the disease.

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Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing.

Fans of the award-winning TV show The West Wing will know the main character is the, a President of the United States played by Martin Sheen. He had relapsing-remitting MS while in office. The show’s producer researched illnesses that could be debilitating but not fatal and that could be difficult to diagnose.

Sheen’s character, President Bartlet, managed to keep his symptoms under control in the public eye. But MS became a central story line when he failed to make his disease public during his election campaign.

MS story line presidential in West Wing

The West Wing’s portrayal of multiple sclerosis through Bartlet was applauded by Mike Dugan, then president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Dugan, now president emeritus, said the group was pleased the character was a world leader. The society welcomed the fact the show educated viewers about MS and made it clear the disease is not fatal.  It was also pleased that Bartlet was shown as to take advantage of medical breakthroughs to treat his condition.

Dugan said: “Since fiction often becomes more real to people than fact, President Bartlet’s life with MS has potential for great good. The public will become more accepting of individuals with MS. And individuals with MS will become more accepting of themselves and their abilities to lead fulfilling lives.”

Chicago Hope was set in a hospital in Chicago. In 1995, it featured the role of an MS patient for comedian and movie star Richard Pryor, who had multiple sclerosis in real life. In the episode, Pryor played Joe Springer, a character embittered by his MS and hoping to find some kind of miracle surgery that could enable him to walk again. Needless to say, he doesn’t find what he’s looking for.

I am encouraged that film and television programme makers continue to include MS, and other illnesses, in their stories. The more publicity, the greater public awareness, the better.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Good and bad days on the MS merry-go-round of life

bad days

Pride becomes before a fall, or so the saying goes, and that certainly seems true for me.  I had been getting around a lot more easily, feeling pleased, using my new rollator but then …

Ok, all of us who live with multiple sclerosis have good and bad days. Good days when we find it fairly easy to get around or do things; bad days when the opposite is true.

Two days ago, all was well. I was out and about and used my rollator to help me walk into our local pharmacy to collect my medications. Feeling comfortable and at ease, I felt strong and confident.

Then I drove home where, again using my rollator, walked up the ramp to the front door and went indoors.

Yesterday, regretfully, was not the same story. Not by a long shot!

I went out the front door, started down the ramp and my legs soon felt shaky and my arms so weak that I was unable to support myself on the rollator. It was no surprise when I sank to the ground. After a few minutes, by sitting on the side of the ramp, I managed to regain my feet and made my way to the back of our car, where Lisa had my wheelchair ready.

Bad days are not so easy

All that was left to do was to walk across some gravel and transfer from the rollator to my wheelchair. Easy right? Well, yes, on a good day. Even on a moderate day. But yesterday was neither of those, it was a very bad day; bad to ******* awful.

And that’s why my easy transfer ended up causing me to fall again, this time in the quiet road outside our home. The sky was blue, the sun blazing down. It was midday, and very hot. Remember, we live in the south of Spain and today it got to 37°C, which is almost 99°F, and that’s the shade temperature. I was in direct sunlight, the humidity was high. It was hot. It’s been like that for weeks.

I made several unsuccessful attempts to get up but, eventually, Lisa phoned for help. In next to no time Eddie and Bob arrived and got me off the road surface and safely back in my wheelchair.

Difficulty resolved. Today is another day, I wonder what that will bring. Let’s hope it is a good one.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Benefits for disabled people are in chaos, government admits delays

Introductions of two flagship benefits that affect people with disabilities are both behind schedule. The government department responsible has confirmed that the nationwide roll out is going slower than anticipated.

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Photo: The Independent.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is far behind schedule. This is the benefit brought in to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which the government thought unfit for purpose.

And the much-vaunted Universal Credit (UC) has just 540,000 recipients, that is 90% behind schedule. UC was designed to replace six other benefits. These are: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support.

As far as PIP is concerned, all existing DLA claimants should have received ‘invitations’ to claim PIP by April of this year. Well, that didn’t happen, that target is now history. Now, the aim is that all working age DLA claimants will have received their invitation letters by late 2018. And final assessments and transfers are now expected to be completed around mid-2019.

Benefits massively behind schedule

According to Benefits and Work website, there has been a huge fall in the number of DLA to PIP cases being sent to DWP’s assessment companies Atos and Capita since January of this year. So, maybe the DWP will not be able to keep to that new target either.

Roll out of UC is massively behind schedule.  It is unlikely to be completed before 2022.

Call me a cynic, if you like, but I believe that target is wildly optimistic. Most UC claimants so far have made the simplest claims, what’s going to happen when they make complex ones? Can the DWP cope?

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report, last month, and urged the government to pause the roll out of UC. This was because of major problems it is causing even the most straightforward claimants, including 57% having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The DWP, however, has dismissed the concerns of the CAB and has confirmed that the roll out of full service UC will increase from 5 areas a month to 50 areas a month from October.

Whether that will happen, though, is matter for conjecture. I have my doubts.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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