Ian: “The nursing team helped me come to terms with having MND and re-gain some independence”

Ian Cruikshank, a Northern Ireland firefighter, has had support for several years from our nurses at Jubilee House and says they’ve been a valuable part of his physical and mental journey.

Getting a life-changing health diagnosis can turn your world upside down and, in many cases, mean you lose some of your valued independence in the years ahead.

Our Nursing team at Jubilee House understand that and are there to ensure our beneficiaries are supported throughout their stay, so they can not only gain back some independence, but also give their families at home a break.

Northern Ireland firefighter Ian Cruikshank, 47, has been receiving that support for the last few years, ever since he started to notice his health was declining, and says it’s been an incredible help to him – particularly as he later found out that the symptoms he’d been noticing were those of motor neurone disease.

“I got the diagnosis on 21 June, 2021,” says Ian. “We knew before that that I had a problem and it was getting progressive over the last six years, but they never diagnosed it as motor neurone disease until later.”

Ian knew about the support we offer, having seen his colleagues helped in the past, so got in touch with us early on – before knowing what he was living with was MND.

“I’ve been visiting Jubilee House probably for the last five or six years now,” says Ian. “The nursing team have really helped me come to terms with my diagnosis over the last couple of years.

“I go primarily for physio and don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk now without aids, but I don’t think I’d be able to walk at all if I hadn’t had the input from the staff at Jubilee House and the fantastic facilities there.

“I really look forward to my time there and it gives my wife and kids a rest, because there’s a lot of things they need to help me with now – getting me dressed in the morning and things like that. At least it gives them a respite and me some time to focus completely on myself and my health.

“I have four children, one at university age, one doing their A Levels and two at primary school, so at home I’m trying to be dad, husband and everything else, but when I go there I can just be me for a week.

“I take part in the physical therapy sessions, in groups and one-to-one, and I’ve also had some counselling through the Charity too which has really helped me come to terms with my illness.

“My advice to anyone else that might be getting their head round a life-changing diagnosis like this too would be to reach out. Ask for that help and support. The Charity is there.”

For Ian, he says being able to talk and engage with people away from home has been really helpful for him.

“You can talk it through with somebody that doesn’t have a real opinion and guides you to make your own decisions,” he adds.

“It’s really good to get away from your home set-up too, to be able to address your situation and be completely yourself. You’re not Dad, you’re not a husband, you’re just you. It establishes that independence again. That’s been very important to anyone with MND, as well as the physical side.

“The team have helped me start to set realistic targets for myself too. As much as I’d love to be back on the fire truck, that’s not realistic now. For me, it might be getting my shoes on now.”

Our nursing team provides round-the-clock care, compassion and support to beneficiaries who are visiting and may be in need of additional support. And that can stretch beyond your time at a centre.

“The nurses keep in contact with me and they’re very good at checking in regularly to see how you’re doing,” says Ian. “The staff are absolutely fantastic, just fantastic, I can’t say enough about all of them.

“I’ve met a life-long friend through Jubilee House too. We’ve kept in contact since we first met and we often are able to attend together now. He’d experienced similar symptoms to me, and he has a similar career history, so it’s great to see him each time. We’re from two different countries, but we have all these similarities.”

Ian is now focusing on spending time with those close to him, while ensuring he continues to care for his wellbeing as best he can, with our support.

“I’m currently going through the process of retiring after 15 years on the job. I love my job, but I got to the stage where I’m no big asset for them and I know that,” says Ian.

“I want to spend my time now where I can with my wife and kids.

“Being a member of the fire service, it’s like it’s a member of your extended family. It’s not like any other job, it’s very much part of your life.”

Ian recently visited Buckingham Palace with his daughter, as she received her gold Duke of Edinburgh award. It had been a goal for him for months, and one he was delighted to achieve.

“My goal was always to get to Buckingham Palace to see my daughter receive her award. I’m super proud of her, and being able to get there to see it,” he adds.

“I managed that, now my next goal is to be able to attend the week in August at Jubilee House.”

If you feel you’d benefit from our health and wellbeing support, we may be able to help you. Call our Support Line on 0800 389 8820, make an enquiry online or register for My Fire Fighters Charity now and visit the ‘Access Support’ tab.

You can also join our ‘Share Your Story’ Group in the app, by clicking on the ‘Groups’ tab, to chat to others who have received our support or enquire about sharing your own story.