When diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in his late 20s, David Leeson made a conscious decision: he was determined to get more out of the disease than it would get out of him. Now, aged 45, he says the disease has changed his life for the better in ways he could never have imagined.
“I’m making the most of things, doing and seeing things I never thought I would,” says the former Scottish firefighter from Fife. “I was devastated to have to leave my job after 12 years in the fire service. But my MS has opened doors for me that I never thought I would be there, and it’s thanks to the Charity for making it possible.”
In the early days of his diagnosis, David’s symptoms progressed quickly, forcing him to use a wheelchair. But the heavy one given him by the NHS was cumbersome and difficult to manoeuvre: “It was good, but it was so heavy I couldn’t go anywhere without assistance, especially as I have a lack of strength in my left-hand side.”
Unable to afford to the lightweight chair that would give him back his independence, he approached The Fire Fighters Charity’s Welfare team to see if there was anything that could be done.
“I was nervous to begin with, as I only knew a little bit about the Charity, and thought it was mainly about helping people at its centres around the country,” he says. “But the whole process was incredibly easy and the Charity was a huge help to me.”
Having been successful with his application, the Charity purchased David’s new wheelchair, and it instantly transformed his world.
“It’s given me more independence than I ever thought possible,” he says. “I’m more active now than I was before my diagnosis!”
David has gotten into coastal rowing, can drive using hand controls and has become a regular face at his local rugby stadium, none of which he’d be able to do with a heavier chair. He has also developed a love for wheelchair curling, and has represented both Team GB and Scotland in international competitions.
“I never thought I would achieve so much,” says David. “I did genuinely come to the conclusion that I was determined to get more out of MS than it got out of me; there’s no point sitting in the house feeling sorry for myself. For now, I’m quite happy. And I am lucky, because I am on a research trial at The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic, founded by JK Rowling in memory of her mum, who died of MS in 1990.
“I cannot thank The Fire Fighters Charity enough for the help they’ve given me. It may seem like a small thing, having a lighter wheelchair, but it has made a massive difference to my life. If there’s anyone out there who is struggling like I was, I would tell them to ask for help, because it’s there for you if you need it. There’s a bit of pride involved sometimes, but put that to one side, because a little bit of help might make a massive difference to your life as well.”
Are you living with a life-changing diagnosis and think you could benefit from some specialist equipment? Why not get in touch with the Welfare team and see if we could help you too? Gall us today on 0800 389 8820 or contact us online.