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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Motability faces financial allegations but stands strong against its critics

Shock, horror. Motabilty Operations, part of the Motability charity, is facing allegations about its finances.

The UK organisation provides cars for disabled people who receive the highest level of benefit for mobility. It is accused of having enormous cash reserves and is said to pay its chief executive an outrageous six figure salary.

Extraordinary, we must investigate, say ministers and other MPs. BUT, hold on, what are the FACTS? What is the TRUTH?

The Daily Mail first revealed the allegations in a report published this week. In the Mail Online, the story was headlined “Revealed: Boss of car scheme for the disabled is on £1.7million… and YOU pay: MPs question Motability’s lavish salaries and its £2.4billion cash stockpile”.

Today, it returned to the story, quoting the Press Association saying:

A disability charity faces a double investigation after MPs raised concerns over the “grotesque” state of its finances.

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said she has asked the National Audit Office (NAO) to consider probing Motability amid reports it has a £2.4 billion surplus and pays its chief executive £1.7 million a year.

Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, also confirmed his panel would be launching its own “urgent inquiry”.

Allegations rebuffed

I am sure you will agree, if the allegations turn out to be true, it would be disgusting. Profiteering on the backs of the disabled. However, there are two sides to every story and Motability has hit back.

It has issued a strongly worded rebuff to the claims made against it. In its statement, Motability said:

motabilityThe Daily Mail claims there is a £2.4bn ‘cash stockpile’ or ‘spare £2.4bn’.

It’s quite clear to us that the Daily Mail has totally misunderstood what this £2.4 billion of reserves represents. It is not held as cash but is used to buy cars for disabled people. This reduces the amount of borrowing required.

It also underpins the scheme’s financial stability, protecting it from the business risks it faces, particularly in relation to used car values. The Charity Commission has today stated “that we consider the level of operating capital held by the company in order to guarantee the scheme to be conservative”.

Moving on to the issue of the salary paid to Mike Betts, the charity said:

The remuneration of Motability Operations directors is decided by the Motability operations board, based on the advice of their remuneration committee.

Successful and effective

Remuneration is reviewed against the market to ensure that it is both competitive over the long term, and to ensure that any rewards are related to performance especially in relation to the quality of service provided to customers.

The current chief executive of Motability Operations, Mike Betts, has been in place since 2003 and has been instrumental in ensuring the company is able to operate successfully and effectively.

So, we have allegations and a complete rebuff. Now, we will have to wait for the inquiries to be completed and all the facts to be established.

Until then, I’ll give Motability the benefit of any doubt. After all, like anyone else, the company should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

•  Having multiple sclerosis£££, I was awarded the top level of both care and mobility elements of Disabled Living Allowance. I chose to use the mobility element to get a Motability car when I lived in Wales. While I still have the same award, the mobility element is not paid outside the UK and so, living in Spain, I don’t receive it. However, if I moved back to Britain, I would be paid it again.

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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 freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

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Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, or another festival – disabled or not – let’s all be happy

Season’s greetings to one and all, family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, and all my readers alike.

If you are disabled and find this season a challenge, be sure to pace yourself. As almost 17 years have passed since I received a diagnosis of having MS, I understand it can be difficult. It is easy to get caught up with enthusiastic family members and friends. But, your health matters, so please stay in control and don’t do more than you can manage.

Papa Noel.

This time of year is full of festivities, not just Christmas which, although supposedly marking the birth of Christ, has become a secular celebration. I say ‘supposedly’ because scholars of history say he was actually born in April. Christmas was only put in December by the early church to take over from the pagan festival of yule and the birth of the sun king.

Other holidays that are celebrated widely in December include: Judaism’s Hanukkah, Buddhism’s Bodhi Day (day of enlightenment), and Kwanzaa, which is a Pan-African festival popular in the US.

And here in Spain, the 12th day of Christmas – January 6 – is the main fiesta. It is the Dia de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day.

Three Kings Day

This is the day that the children of Spain, and other Hispanic countries, traditionally get presents for Christmastime.

While children from other parts of the world eagerly await Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night, children here look forward to the evening of January 5. Then, children leave shoes by the door in the hope that the three kings will leave gifts for the morning. Does that sound familiar?

These days, though, Santa Claus seems to be displacing the traditional Three Kings at Christmastime in Spain. Santa Claus is becoming more common, but even families that choose to embrace “Papa Noel” also tend to wait for the Kings.

three kings

Three Kings parade.

The arrival of the Three Kings on the evening of January 5 is marked throughout Spain. Melchor, Gazpar and Baltasar (the African king) appear in parades through villages, towns, and cities. These also feature floats from which locals throw handfuls of sweets to the children waiting in the streets.

Just as it is traditional for nativity scenes not to include the baby Jesus until Christmas Day, the wise men, or three kings, are added later. The images of the wise men are moved closer to Bethlehem over the Christmas season. They arrive at the stable on the 6th.

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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 freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor and cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.  

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Meeting with neurologist in Spain, after MS Nurse blocked me in UK

People with serious illnesses need specialist medical care. That may be stating the obvious but my experience leads me to believe that it is not always true.

I received my diagnosis of having multiple sclerosis in 2002 in the UK and began by seeing a neurologist every six months. However, after just a couple of appointments, I was referred to an MS Specialist Nurse. At that time, the neurologist said that if I needed to see him again, the nurse would arrange it.

Sadly, that tuned out to not be the case. When I did ask my MS Nurse to arrange for me to see a neurologist, the nurse asked me why. He said I used to have relapsing MS and now had secondary progressive, there was no treatment, so he saw no point in me seeing a neurologist.

Since moving to Spain, two years ago today, seeing a neurologist has not been on top of my ‘to do’ list.  Six weeks ago, though, I mentioned to my GP that I’d like to see one – and received an immediate referral.

Neurologist specialising in MS

Following an initial meeting on October 30, yesterday I had my first session with a consultant neurologist specialising in MS. This took place in Hospital Torrecárdenas, in the city of Almería.

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Hospital Torrecárdenas, Almeria.

There, in addition to my medical history, Dr Carmen Muñoz had the results of last week’s MRI scan and blood tests. And, on top of that, I was able to provide her with the MRI scans and full medical report produced by Dr Denis Fedorenko when I spent a few days at the HSCT centre in Moscow during October last year.

Regular readers may remember that, last year, Dr F told me that my lesions were inactive and that I was vitamin D deficient. From that point, I began taking a vitamin B supplement every day.

Yesterday, Dr Muñoz compared the new scans with last year’s. The good news is that there is no change. Not the same as far as vitamin deficiency, though.

True, the vitamin D level has improved slightly but it is still deficient. Added to that, now I am deficient in vitamin B12 too. So, from tomorrow, my vitamin D supplement dose increases significantly – and I also begin to take a B12 supplement.

Vitamins and deficiency

I decided to look at what deficiencies of the vitamins means.

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These are essential to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities, such as rickets in children, and bone pain caused by osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, in adults.

Vitamin B12 has a crucial role in the production of red blood cells and DNA, as well as the functioning of your nervous system.

The effects of vitamin B12 deficiency can include: pale or jaundiced skin; weakness and fatigue; sensations of pins and needles; mobility problems; mouth ulcers and inflamed tongue; breathlessness abd dizziness; disturbed vision; mood changes; and, rarely, a high temperature.

Of course, many of these are common in MS regardless of any issues with vitamin B12.

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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 freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Determined to continue MS fight in retirement

Today, November 8 2017, I celebrate my 65th birthday, and have reached my retirement age. That is the age at which I can claim the national pension.

For many years the retirement age in the UK has been 65 for men and 60 for women, but that’s all changing. Indeed, if I had been born just 11 months later, my retirement aged would have been 66. And the later your date of birth, the later retirement age will be. The plan is that it will eventually rise to 68 for everyone.

retirement

That’s me. A few months old in 1953.

So, what does it mean for me?

Well, I have finally reached an age that always seemed so far away in the most distant future. But as the wheel of life continues to turn relentlessly through the seasons, the years pass … seemingly faster and faster.

When, I received a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis 15½ years ago, I was 49. Even then, 65 seemed so very far away, but here I am.

Will I be putting my feet up and be taking life more slowly? Not a chance, except when fatigue creeps up on me.  My mobility may be seriously affected by having MS, but my electric wheelchair lets me get out and about and ensures my independence (special thanks here to Shaun Atkinson and his Better Products for Disabled People company).

Retirement, the MS fight goes on

My family is the greatest thing in my life. My beloved wife Lisa (who is my lover, my carer, and my rock) and two cats make up our household here in southern Spain where we enjoy the good life of 300 days of sunshine a year.

retirement

That’s me, again. Approaching my 30th birthday in 1982.

I haven’t been able to go out to work for 10 years now, because of MS, so reaching retirement age means little to me. Certainly, no retirement party or parting gift. I will continue, though, to write this blog as well as occasional articles about healthcare.

I am determined to enjoy my retirement years, notwithstanding this terrible disease. After all, I am still me. Age is just a number, nothing more, nothing less.

MS doesn’t define me. Neither does disability, nor age; I define myself.

I may be disabled. I may be retired, a pensioner, a senior citizen. But most of all, I am me, a person. And, as far as MS is concerned, I am a fighter, a warrior, and tireless advocate.

MS will never get me, I’ll never give up. Nor should you. Whether you have MS, another disease, or have a disability from a different cause. Stand strong.

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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 freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Health: Debate over best system will continue

There is no doubt that I prefer social healthcare. That means I support healthcare funded by countries, such as the UK and Spain, rather than needing to buy private health insurance, as in the US.

Now, that is not to say either healthcare system provides superior medical care. It is purely about the costs.

health

An American protester calls for the country to have one health plan.

Neither system is entirely free as workers pay something from their salary or wages as contributions toward the cost. But there are other big differences. Social medicine is free at the point of use, with no charges for doctors’ treatment or hospital care. The same cannot be said of private health care, where even GPs charge fees and you need health insurance. In fact, in the US, not having health cover has legal penalties.

Despite that, many people find the cost of insurance to be prohibitive.

I find it strange, and more than a little ironic, that insurance costs got worse after the US passed the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. How can ‘affordable’ equal more expensive? Some monthly premiums escalated from less than $60 a month to more than $300. And others cost a lot more.

Let me be clear, I am not saying the American system is flawed. It is just not for me.

Prescription costs a question of health

One item of contention in the UK is the cost of prescriptions. First, you must recognise that the UK IS made up of four healthcountries. A trip to the pharmacist in England will cost you £8.60 per prescription drug or item.  But prescriptions in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all free.

Since Lisa and I moved to Spain almost two years ago, we have been surprised by the low prescription charges here. Yes, we do pay – but just cents, certainly not excessive.

The standard of care here is excellent but, as anywhere, it can vary from doctor to doctor. We recently chose to change our doctor to another within the same health centre. It was so simple.

Last week, I had my first appointment with our new doctor. He listened to what I had to say, prescribed a couple of medications, and, as I have MS, he referred me to see a neurologist. Stopping at reception on the way out, I left with a confirmed appointment with a neurologist. It will be my first in 12 years.

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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 freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. 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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Sensitivity to heat not affected by summer sunshine

heat

As summer continues with temperatures in the 30°s C (high 80°s), the hottest days now seem to be behind us here in the south of Spain. The temperatures peaked at over 100°, so the high 80°s is quite pleasant.

What’s more, the good news is that the hot weather has not caused me any heat sensitivity problems at all. But then, that’s exactly what I expected. And that is because my heat sensitivity is triggered by changes in temperature not consistent heat.

Some people were concerned about heat exhaustion when the learned that Lisa ad I announced we were moving to Spain, two years ago. But after a series of sudden temperature changes experienced in the UK, this is a walk in the park.

Heat in your marriage

Talking of my beloved Lisa, she never ceases to amaze me with her selfless dedication to my wellbeing.

I have heard from so many people with MS who have split up ad divorced when their partners decide that a life as a caregiver isn’t for them. It is so sad.

Lisa has known that I have MS right from the start of our relationship, I never tried to hide it. She agreed to marry me knowing what was in store for us both. Furthermore, her granddad had MS too, so she knew more than most husbands and wives when their spouses are diagnosed as having MS.

Perhaps that is not incredible, perhaps it should be expected but there are many who have found that not to be the case. The “till death do us part” of the marriage vows appears to have been lost on their partners.

Do you have the loving support of your spouse or have you split up? And just how does heat sensitivity affect you, or doesn’t it? Please let me know.

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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 Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. 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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Even a little independence is a great feeling

If you have mobility problems, getting out and about is extremely difficult. And doing so without the constant presence of a helper, assistant, or caregiver is something that is next to impossible.

As multiple sclerosis affects my left side, I cannot propel myself in a manual wheelchair. So, forget any thoughts of independence. It’s just out of the question.

But earlier this week, I managed to visit both the health centre, and a bank, in our nearest town. Alone.

independence

This is my wheelchair.

It was all thanks to my lightweight, foldable electric wheelchair. It is so compact, when folded, that it goes in the back of our car. The only trouble is that, although lightweight, because of my disability, it’s still beyond my ability to lift by myself.

So on Tuesday, after I drove the five miles to town, Lisa lifted the chair out of the car and I was quickly on my way to see the nurse. Encountering just a short delay from my appointment time, I practiced my very basic Spanish language skills, and was soon on the second leg of my journey.

Worry-free independence

It’s a fairly long but straight road from the health centre to the bank, although it is uphill and has several side roads. I negotiated all the dropped kerbs successfully, and it really felt good to be able to do all of it by myself.

In the meantime, Lisa was doing a bit of shopping without having to worry about me.

We met back at our car, as arranged. Lisa was there first and suggested we visit a nearby snack bar for a pastry and orange juice.

Finally, we returned to the car where we jointly lifted the folded chair back into the car, before I drove home.

It wasn’t a great feat, and was nothing to shout about, but doing it by myself made me feel good.

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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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Wife who is carer is really a wonderful, loving, angel

It’s been an eventful few days for the two of us at home here in Spain.

On Saturday, nine days ago, my beloved Lisa asked me to help put the washing out to dry. It’s an easy job that I can do sitting down, so I readily agreed. The trouble was that it was not one of my best days. Thanks to multiple sclerosis, I managed to fall while walking out of the back door onto our terrace.

I still have no idea how but the nail of the big toe on my left foot was torn upright. It was 90 degrees from its usual position. There was pain and blood – and plenty of the red stuff.

carerMy wife Lisa is also my carer and is quite used to me spending time on the floor and could not see my injury, so she didn’t rush to my side. But she certainly arrived fast enough when I told her what was wrong.

In next to no time, she had stopped the bleeding and strapped up my toe. Luckily, once bandaged, the pain eased so that it only hurt if touched.

Wife and carer is an angel

A couple of days later, I visited our doctor. He removed the dressing and the nail came off with it. The wound started to bleed again but he quickly stopped it and sent me to a nurse to get it redressed. That started a series of one visit every two days, something I had to get used to here. The Spanish health service goes the extra mile to see that patients receive the best treatment.

However, these regular visits to the health centre are putting more stress on Lisa. Lifting my electric wheelchair out of, and back into, our car is a task that should not be repeated often. Meanwhile, at home, she is doing virtually all the work. She is my carer and refuses to ask me to help in case I am hurt again. In fact, while doing anything involving standing or walking is difficult, I try to do what I can.

One thing though, Lisa is always so grateful for whatever help I can give. But all she does for me makes her even more than my loving wife and carer.

She is my wonderful, loving, guardian angel who walks here on earth.

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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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MS is No Excuse for Being Discourteous When Offered Help

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It was a trip, plain and simple, neither my leg giving way nor a fall. It was MS-related because it was directly caused by foot drop; the toe of my left shoe caught on the tiniest ridge at the bottom of a ramp.

My trip wasn’t dramatic, I didn’t end up on my face. In fact, I simply sat down on a small retaining wall of a flower bed, about two or three bricks high. No fuss, Lisa even told me afterward that I had managed to sit down quite gracefully.

After sitting there for about a minute, I could have stood up and continued my way inside the restaurant for our meal and, back in the U.K., that’s exactly what I would have expected to happen.

Not here in Spain, though! No sooner had I come to sit on the low wall than two young men from a group at a table on the terrace, rushed up and helped me back to my feet. But that was not enough for one of them; he was determined not to let go until I was safely seated at a table inside.help

I expressed my gratitude in Spanish and he returned to his group outside.

Lisa and I enjoyed our meal, three courses plus a drink and a coffee for just 10€ each (about $10.50, or £8.50), which is nothing to complain about.

Eventually it was time to leave and, as we came out of the door, the same young man who helped me earlier again sprung out of his chair to escort me back to our car. This time, I had not tripped or fallen; he just wanted to help.

We exchanged a few words in Spanish (not too many as I am still learning the language, but enough to guide him to the correct car, make him understand that I needed to go the driver’s side and then to, once again, thank him for all his help).

Like many people who have MS or any other disability, I am keen to be independent. However, not so fiercely that I would be rude or cause offense to anyone offering help. Even those times when I do decline an offer, I always do so in a friendly way and make sure that it is obvious that the offer was appreciated.

You must have come across people who are discourteous when offered assistance, which they reject with a terse “I’ll be all right,” “I can do it,” or worse, “Leave me alone.” These people are doing no service to themselves or the wider community of people living with disabilities.

Yes, I have multiple sclerosis and, yes, I have a disability that sometimes necessitates using a wheelchair. But the disease does not have me, nor has my desire for independence robbed me of basic common courtesy.

This article, written by me, was first published by Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Looking back to move forward into 2017

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It’s New Year’s Eve and so tonight we bid farewell to 2016 and prepare to welcome the infant 2017.

At this time every year, we hear some people say that they are glad to see the back of an unhappy time and look forward to a hopefully better year ahead. On the other hand, there are others for whom the last 12 months have been good and are hoping for that to continue.

yearThat made me think about how 2016 has been for my beloved Lisa and I. Not usually being one to formally sit down and take stock, this seems to be a good time to do just that. So, let’s take a quick look back at the old year as it draws to a close.

Having moved from North Wales in the UK to Andalucía in the south of Spain in November 2015, this year has been spent largely adapting to the different lifestyle, local customs, dealing with a change of language, a new currency and so on.

Home

Our home itself is superb, being detached, all on one floor with level access at the back and a purpose-built wet room installed in place of the bathroom. It also has extremely low maintenance gardens, front and rear, as well as off-road parking.

The living room and kitchen/diner are joined by a wide arch while another links the living room to the interior hallway that has doors to the wet room and two bedrooms. The arches give more than enough room for wheelchair access if required. Overall, we have twice as much room here in Spain than we did in our apartment in Wales.

Health

The year did not start out too well when I had to be rushed to hospital when my urine turned to blood with a little urine mixed in. It turned out to be nothing to do with multiple sclerosis but as a direct result of blood thinning medication prescribed in the UK as part of treatment for a heart condition. Unknown to me at the time, the situation was more than serious; it was life-threatening. Amazingly, the Spanish health service had the problem under control in just six hours and discharged me after only two nights in hospital.

Since then, my blood thinning medication has been changed and has been kept under control.

As far as MS is concerned, of course it is still here – and always will be – but things have changed for the better. I visited the AA Maximov centre in Moscow in October to be assessed to see whether or not I would be likely to benefit from having HSCT. Four days of intensive health tests led to me being told, on the downside that the chemotherapy drugs might pose an unacceptable risk because of my heart condition. However, on the upside, all the MS lesions in my brain and spine are old and inactive; there is no current inflammation.

Interestingly, in order to help maintain this inactivity, I was advised by Dr Fedorenko to avoid all vaccinations – including the flu vaccine.

He also revealed that my vitamin D level was far too low. It was not just insufficient, it was even lower. It was classed as deficient. He advised taking a daily vitamin D supplement to correct the situation. Since starting to take this, I have seen improvements in balancing and walking ability although not endurance, have found muscles to be getting stronger (well, less weak), have suffered far fewer falls, and generally feel more ‘able’.

Writing is a passion of mine and to have expanded from this blog of mine to Multiple Sclerosis News Today is therapeutic in more ways than one.

Finance

The cost of living in Spain is certainly lower than in the UK. Groceries, car fuel, even the cost of eating out – everything seems to cost less here than in Britain, except electricity. And the knock-on effect of those cheaper costs means that our income goes further than before. Indeed, earlier this month, I managed to pay off a credit card!

Language

Linguistic skills have never been my strong point. At school, I spent five years studying French to quite a poor standard, and living in Wales for 23 years left me really unable to speak Welsh, although I can sing its national anthem Mae hen wladfy’n hadau and, from memory, can reci.e the countrhy’s longest place name, the Anglesey village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwerndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – oh, and I can spell it too.

The Spanish language is a lot easier and, although I am by no means fluent, I can take part in basic everyday conversations and can understand basic newspaper stories.

To sum it up

So, all in all, 2016 has been a positive year for us. How was it for you?

Happy New Year

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ian-skype_edited50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/disorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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