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Royal visit raises awareness around devastating motor neurone disease

A BARROW health centre received a royal visit yesterday.

Princess Anne, who is royal patron of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA), met and spoke with motor neurone disease (MND) patients at the Living Well centre on Duke Street. She was also greeted by a number of local dignitaries and gave a speech at the event.

“Despite the excitement generated by her visit, the Princess was remarkably relaxed and made everyone in the room instantly feel at ease,” Jack Roskell of MNDA Furness said.

“It’s fantastic we had a visitor of such status and one with a clear connection to the charity today. Really, unless you or someone you know has come into contact with the disease, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pick up on the signs – which can be as seemingly minor as experiencing some weakness. So having someone like Princess Anne here today to raise the profile of both the Living Well Centre and of the condition itself is a huge help to the cause.”

The event was run in conjunction with Cafe Neuro, a programme that runs on Thursdays at St Mary’s Living Well Centre for South Cumbria residents with motor neurone disease.

The devastating condition causes an often rapid degeneration of the nerves that control muscle function and is nearly always fatal. Statistics show that one third of people with the illness die within a year of diagnosis and almost half die within two years.

Alan Towart from Lakeside was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017. He has since become an ambassador for the condition, helping raise awareness and raising funds for MNDA. His daughter Sophia presented Princess Anne with flowers at yesterday’s event.

He said: “Around 5,000 people in the UK suffer from the condition at any one time. But there’s still a lack of awareness around both what the disease is and how to spot its early signs.

“So far my progression has thankfully been very slow – others unfortunately don’t have this luxury.

“Thanks to Sue Muller, our MNSD advisor, we were made aware of a children’s grant, which meant my daughter Sophia was able to do something on her wish list – swimming with a dolphin when we visited Dubai last year.

“To be honest, MND wasn’t on my radar before I got the diagnosis – even despite things like the Ice Bucket Challenge.

“In fact, if it hadn’t been for my wife fearing the worst when my co-ordination started to go, the diagnosis would’ve come much further down the line leaving me with considerably less time knowing that this was going to happen and probably a worse quality of life.”

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