“A LOT of things ran through my mind when I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I thought about my family. I wondered how I was going to cope. But I told myself that I have to cope. I told myself I had to carry on and keep going as best I can.”
Those are the words of 55-year-old Paul King, from Hollyhill, Cork.
Paul was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in August, 2017. MND is a rare, progressive neurological condition that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting.
MND can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe. Some people also experience changes to their thinking and behaviour.
However, MND affects each person differently. Not all symptoms will affect everyone diagnosed with the disease, or in the same order. Symptoms progress at varying speeds, which makes the course of the disease difficult to predict.
MND affects adults of any age but is more likely to affect people aged 50 and over. It is a life-shortening disease. Currently, there is no cure for it, but symptoms can be managed to help the person achieve the best possible quality of life.
Paul was 53 when he was diagnosed. Before then, he started to notice that he was struggling to keep up with his colleagues while working as a docker at the Port of Cork.
He says: “When we were finished unloading the ships, we would climb up the ladders. Some of these ladders are between 50 and 100 feet tall. I noticed I was getting weaker and slower. The lads behind me would be waiting, telling me to hurry on. I had a feeling that something was wrong with me.
“After that, I used to let the other lads climb the ladders first, so I wasn’t keeping them waiting. Then, I’d follow them up.
“When I got up to the top of a ship one day, I realised the lads were already miles ahead of me on the ship and I was only after reaching the top of the ladder. I knew then that there was something wrong.”
Paul started to get pains in his legs and thought he might be suffering from arthritis. On a trip away with his wife, Lisa, he noticed that he was out of breath when out for a walk.