Late night police visit to pick me up

Police on your doorstep late at night is never a good sign. If their business cannot wait until the morning, it must be serious, right?

And, so, it happened. Just before midnight, a car pulled up and two uniformed officers came straight to our house.

No, we had done nothing wrong – they didn’t want to question us… or worse! There had been no accidents involving family or friends – they were not bringing us sad news. So, why were they here?

Well, as silly as it sounds, they had come to pick me up ……. off the floor.

You see, I had slipped while transferring from the sofa to my wheelchair, and ended up on the floor.

Despite continued and varied attempts on my part, I was unable to get up – so called 112. This is the emergency number here in Spain, equivalent to 911 in the US and 999 in the UK.

The operator was attentive, reassuring, and efficient. He listened to the facts, understood I have esclerosis multiple (multiple sclerosis), and, after ascertaining that I wasn’t injured and did not need medical assistance, said help was on the way.

And, just 15 minutes later, two Local Police officers arrived to pick me up. This they did quickly and effortlessly and were both courteous and friendly.

Talking of police in Spain, perhaps I should point out that we have three forces – the Guardia Civil, the Policia Nacional and the Policia Local.

The Guardia Civil (Civil Guard) is Spain’s conventional police force which is organised along paramilitary lines and controlled by the Ministry of the Interior. The Guardia has wide ranging responsibilities for national law enforcement and have the resources, powers and facilities of a normal police force. The Guardia Civil polices rural areas and smaller towns as well as the country’s highways.

The Policia Nacional (National Police) is the urban police agency of Spain. They are under the sole authority of Spain’s Ministry of Interior. Like the Guardia Civil it is a conventional police force, that polices cities and larger towns. It is also responsible for border security and issues residencia certificates for anyone wanting to become a resident in Spain and the essential national-registry identification number (NIE). It also undertakes the security of the Spanish royal family and the government. 

Policia Local (Local Police) is the force that is controlled by the relevant regional or local authority. It does not investigate crime but deals with minor matters. These include parking, local traffic control, bylaw issues, and, of course, picking me up off the floor. 

Paul’s Moscow HSCT for MS journey begins

I had planned to take a break from writing this month, August being a slow news month that is well known among journalists as the silly season. That’s when minor stories are given major coverage, because of a shortage of stories of real substance.

Paul Morrison and his wife Claire.

However, I could not let Monday August 6 go unmarked.

Why? Because, after months of fundraising, it is the day when Paul Morrison flies to Moscow to undergo HSCT in his fight against MS. He goes with my best wishes for a great trip ad a successful outcome.

I first wrote about Paul’s story here, and since then, he told me last week, the income from his fundraising efforts had reached $45,000.

I plan to catch up with former Londoner Paul after his return to Spain, where he lives just a few miles from me. Watch this space for HSCT news from Moscow and future updates.

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Unless anything happens that I feel must be highlighted, I’ll be back in September.

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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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Heatwave and MS, is 34C (93F) too much to handle?


It seems that the media generally has become somewhat fixated on the heatwave being experienced in various countries worldwide.

As a native Brit, I am well used to everyday conversations including the topic of the weather. It’s a staple of chat, an icebreaker.

heatwaveAnd, in the UK I left behind, people will be complaining about the heat. “It’s too much,” will be an oft-heard comment. I am sure this is equally true of other countries where people are not used to high temperatures.

The latest news from the UK is that the heatwave is forecast to continue with a high of 34C (93F) expected.

But is 34C that hot? Is it unbearable? While I feel for those who have MS and experience heat sensitivity*, the truth is that places like the UK are just not prepared. They are not ready for winter snow, summer sun, or floods caused by heavy rain.

Be prepared for higher temperatures

Lisa and I moved to Andalucía in southern Spain almost three years ago. For us, 34C is not excessive but a common summertime temperature. Here, we are ready for it. And, in August, we fully expect many days when the thermometer will register highs in the 40sC (100sF).

heatwaveTo us, living in the countryside but just 15 minutes from the Mediterranean, these are just regular summer temperatures NOT a heatwave.

How do we cope? Spain is prepared. Our home has air conditioning. Additionally, we have ceiling fans in the living room, our bedroom and our spare bedroom. Our car has AC too. Although that is not unusual in the UK, as a luxury, here we use it for every trip in the hot weather.

It’s important we are all ready for the temperatures in which we live, so we can enjoy them.

Are summer highs in the 40s, that’s more than 100F, “too much”? Not for me. Even with MS, I enjoy day after day of sunshine. It’s so different from the cloudy skies and rain so typical of usual summer weather in the UK.

*Webmd says that heat or high humidity can make many people with multiple sclerosis experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms. Doctors believe that this occurs because heat causes nerves (whose myelin covering has been destroyed from MS) to conduct electrical signals even less efficiently.

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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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Banned, but why? Facebook gives no reason


I am prompted to write that, despite an absence of new posts, I am as well as I can be. I have no health problems beyond multiple sclerosis.

Messages have reached me, asking if everything is ok, such as this one:

Hi, it’s (name removed for privacy). Facebook has not had any of your current writings, so I want you to know you are in my prayers.

The absence of my posts was not caused by any personal reasons but was enforced by Facebook itself. I use it to send my posts to groups of which I am a member but, three times in as many weeks, I have been interrupted by a message saying: “You are restricted from joining and posting to groups that you do not manage until (date and time).

No reason is ever given and the powers that be won’t discuss it with you. You can click on ‘Appeal’ but experience tells me not to bother. Why? Because, if you do, no reply is ever received and the restriction, effectively a ban, is just made longer. The fact is simple, Facebook has the ability to do what it likes and we, its users, have no rights to protest or even ask questions. [I feel another ‘restriction’ will be coming for expressing this truth].

Back until banned again

I explained the situation to everyone who contacted me and this was one response I received via Messenger:

That’s awful. I’m technology challenged, but I knew something was wrong. Thanks for letting me know.

I wish you could sue Facebook for discrimination.

God bless you and your family. Stay strong. Thank you for all your hard work.

Right now, I am back and will continue to bring you news and views – until Facebook decides to ban me again.

Whether you have MS or another health problem, if you have a disability, 50shadesofsun.com is here for you. And, there is no greater support you can give than to share my posts far and wide via every social media.

You can also join a Facebook page that I do manage (and so are exempt from any ban), such as 50shadesofsun or Living with multiple sclerosis.

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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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

A helping hand so readily offered to wheelchair-users

I never cease to be surprised by the willingness of people to offer a helping hand.

Regular readers will know that, because of mobility problems resulting from multiple sclerosis, I use a wheelchair.

Several times recently when out and about in my wheelchair, while Lisa stayed at home, members of the public have been read to offer assistance.

It is never strange when store staff lend a helping hand but I really don’t expect it from fellow shoppers – but that is what has happened.

a helping handIn a local supermarket, other shoppers have:

  • Unloaded my shopping cart;
  • Helped pack the goods into the bags;
  • Taken my shopping to my car;
  • Placed the bags into my car.

On Friday, I needed to go to the bank. Not a difficult job in most circumstances, even when using a wheelchair – but it is not so easy in our local town, Cuevas del Almanzora. Here, in sunny Andalucía in the south of Spain, we have to overcome problems associated with accessibility ramps.

Access can benefit from a helping hand

They do exist but the engineers who make them often miss the fact that they are supposed to drop down enough to make a smooth transition from road to sidewalk. Here, the ramps often leave a small kerb (curb in American English) to overcome. Then there are thoughtless drivers who park across the ramp, making it useless.

Of course, there are places where accessibility rams just don’t exist. Outside the bank being one such example. So, on Friday, I chose the lowest possible step up and, by tilting my wheelchair backwards, managed it. But a passing motorcyclist stopped and rushed to help – perhaps unnerved by the awkward backwards tilt. Still, he didn’t leave m side until I was safely in the bank.

Returning to my car after venturing out, it is relatively easy for me to place the wheelchair inside but it does require some effort. And that’s why, I am always grateful when a passer-by offers to help. Yes, I could persevere and complete the job by myself and, more often, it is what I do. However, when help is offered, I don’t want to appear rude by turning down their kindness.

My desire for independence does not stop me accepting offers of assistance. Do you feel the same way?

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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.

* * * * *

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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Charity AIMS to help MS patients to have HSCT

A new multiple sclerosis charity has appeared in the UK, inspired by one successful HSCT treatment, provided free of charge by the country’s National Health Service (NHS). It is the first charity dedicated to autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) for MS patients living in the UK.

The treatment was given to James Coates two years ago. His story can be read here.

AIMS

Alison and James Coates.

James and his wife Alison are now behind the launch of the AIMS (Auto Immune and Multiple Sclerosis) charity.

Alison explains: “James was lucky enough to access HSCT on the NHS, and we wanted to give something back. We were also very frustrated at reports of misinformation given to patients by their neurologists and other MS agencies.

“Such misinformation includes a much higher mortality rate than is accurate, and that HSCT wouldn’t be suitable for them because they have progressive MS. In fact, HSCT halts progression in the overwhelming majority of patients irrespective of MS type. There are also general inaccuracies about the criteria for NHS acceptance – and that’s still happening every day.

“We wanted to do something to put the record straight and all our trustees feel very strongly about that,” she said.
AIMS itself received confirmation of its registered charity status on April 11 this year (registered chatity 1177907). Its primary objective is to signpost to qualified medical specialists during the patient’s research phase, with a view to providing grants as its funding income is developed.

Alison says: “Essentially, AIMS intends to signpost for other hematologically-routed AI diseases (ie: CIPD, Lupus and Systemic Scleroderma) as these conditions, in addition to MS, are treated with HSCT at Clinica Ruiz in Puebla, Mexico, and AA Maximov hospital in Moscow, Russia. Further recommended clinics may be added later.

Main focus on MS

“Our main focus is on multiple sclerosis patients. We plan to offer both financial support AND signposting to UK-based MS patients who are accepted for HSCT in the UK or at either of the above facilities, as MS is the disease that is currently treated within the UK on the NHS.”

Every charity has to have trustees and, for AIMS, those trustees rightly include both James and Alison. But the couple’s involvement doesn’t stop there. James heads the charity’s finance team, while Alison leads the publc relations and media team.

On December 1, AIMS charity will be holding its first major fundraiser – a super black-tie dinner, with entertainment. It will be selling tables of 8 and 10 for an event that will double as its ‘launch party. I know your support will be very much appreciated, so check out the charity’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aimscharity.org/.

James says: “We have run smaller fundraisers – our Trustee Paddy has participated in Tough Mudder for us, and we’ve received a number of donations – the December 1 dinner will be our first big event.
“We are hoping to raise upward of £50,000 annually, which would help many people to access HSCT and support them in terms of their travel expenses.”.

Looking to the future, AIMS proposes to support the travel expenses of UK-based MS patients. Initially, they must have been accepted for HSCT treatment in the UK, Clinica Ruiz in Puebla, Mexico and AA Maximov hospital in Moscow, Russia.

AIMS is quite clear that it will only give grants towards travel costs and funding will only be allocated to patients who have secured a place at a qualifying facility. It will not contribute towards the treatment itself.

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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 for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Zinbryta risks outweigh benefits, European report

Multiple sclerosis treatment Zinbryta was withdrawn in March and now a review by the European Medicines Agency has found its risks outweigh its benefits.

The review confirms the drug’s association with the risk of developing severe and potentially fatal immune reactions in the brain, liver and other organs. It was carried out by to the European Medicines Agency‘s (EMA)’s Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC).

zinbrytaIn March, when I reported that the drug had been withdrawn, I questioned the due diligence of the approval process.

EMA says that 12 cases of inflammatory brain disorders worldwide were potentially related to the medication’s use. Further, encephalitis and meningoencephalitis, or inflammation of the membranes enveloping the brain and spinal cord, resulted in three deaths.

Zinbryta is no longer available through European pharmacies and hospitals but the EMA recommends healthcare professionals to monitor patients who were treated with Zinbryta.

The EMA says: “Patients could be at risk from the start of treatment and for several months after stopping treatment, and it is not possible to predict which patients will be affected. The PRAC therefore confirmed its previous conclusions that risks of Zinbryta outweigh its benefits for patients with multiple sclerosis.”

Biogen and Abbie are working closely with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the withdrawal of Zinbryta in the US, according to Zinbryta’s website.

Anyone who takes Zinbryta is advised to contact their healthcare professionals and discuss a new treatment strategy.

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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.

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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