Brave Kildare family battles daily challenges of Motor Neurone Disease

Inspirational McMahon family from the Curragh

Leinster Leader reporter

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Brave Kildare family battles daily challenges of MND

Michael McMahon junior of the Curragh Camp with his parents Theresa and Michael

You meet all kinds of people in this profession — some leave a lasting impression, others come and go, and there are those that impress you beyond belief.

The McMahons from the Curragh Camp may seem like an ordinary family from the outside, but the extraordinary courage shown by Michael junior (41) and his parents, Michael senior and Theresa in the face of adversity is striking.

Since Motor Neurone Disease (MND) came into their lives, their world has changed.

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To mark the National Awareness Month for MND, we chatted to Michael senior about how the family copes on a day to day basis.

It all began when his son started to complain of a pain in his arm.

“He was fit and healthy. He did a lot of walking. Then he got a pain in his arm and he went to the physio. She did a job on it and it came back. He went back and she looked after it again, but when he went back the third time, she said ‘you should go to the doctor’,” explained Michael senior.

“The doctor sent him to Naas and they sent him to Tallaght. Then he got the diagnosis. That was in 2015, he was 38. He was a single man. He had a place of his own in Kildare.”

Eventually Michael junior had to move back home as his illness progressed.

It has now escalated to the stage where he has lost the power in his arms and hands.

He has to be assisted out of bed in the morning and needs help with all of his daily tasks.

Michael junior also has the support of two HSE carers who provide one hour’s assistance on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

“That has been a real life saver,” explained Michael senior.

Once his son is up, he likes to spend time on his computer, which has been fitted with an eye gaze fixture, allowing him to fully utilise the technology.

This was provided by the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (INMDA).

In an effort to help Michael get out of the house, get some fresh air and meet people, his dad drives him over to Naas in the afternoons where he brings him for a walk around the lakes.

“The ground is smooth up around the hospital so I can push the wheelchair, and there is a railway line that was taken up and there is a nice path up there. We normally spend about two hours over there,” added Michael senior.

He is full of praise for occupational therapist, Una O’Malley from the Primary Care Centre in Newbridge.

“She is just so fantastic. She fights for everything for us. At the moment she is trying to get us a battery for the push wheelchair, it’s like a fifth wheel that you can attach, which would make the wheelchair a lot easier to push.”

The McMahons are one of 370 families across Ireland who have been affected by MND.

IMNDA nurse, Eithne Cawley is one of three nurses employed by the charity to cover the entire country. Kildare comes under her remit.

She said the funding for the employment of a third nurse came from the money raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge, while a portion of that €1.6m was also earmarked for research into a cure.

“It’s important to point out that 82% of our funding comes from the public, the ordinary decent Irish people. We only get 18% from the government,” said Eithne.

The IMNDA works closely with neurologist, professor Orla Hardiman and neurologists all over the country. The nurses also liaise with physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, public health nurses, and dieticians.

They meet up with patients once they register with the IMNDA to see what services they require and how often. Counselling is also provided free of charge.

MND attacks the nerves in the brain, which feed the muscles. If the muscles are not fed, they waste away and start to degrade. There is no known cause. Eithne is keen to point out that although MND has no cure with the majority of people living for 1,000 days after a diagnosis, “every person is different, and every case is different”.

She said the drug Rilutek has been proved to slow its progression.

Eithne urged anyone who is concerned about any symptoms they may have to contact their GP.

“With all due respect, the HSE is in a chronic situation, with all the cervical cancer screening problems and such. I cannot get two hours per week of care for the over 65s for home care. We are finding more and more that the burden of care often falls on families and some families are not in a position to provide that care,” she said.

To help support Michael and the MND Awareness month the IMNDA want you to Drink Tea for MND in June.

“So let’s all raise a cuppa and share the stories of over 370 families right across Ireland affected by this disease,” said the IMNDA.

To organise your Drink Tea for MND event throughout the month of June all you have to do is email fundraising@im
nda.ie or Freefone 1800 403 403 and they will send you out a Supervalu sponsored Tea pack.

If you can’t organise a tea day why not make a tea donation just Text MND to 50300 and donate €2. (Some network providers charge VAT, meaning a minimum of €1.63 will go to IMNDA.