Martin Barker, 48, from the Scottish FRS is an ex-frontline firefighter who was diagnosed with ataxia about 15 years ago.
Ataxia is a neurological condition, which gradually attacks the brain. The condition causes problems with balance, coordination and speech, and symptoms can begin at any age.
Martin was diagnosed shortly after his sister discovered she had ataxia when she experienced problems with her balance. At this time, Martin also found out that his two sons had a 50% chance of developing ataxia.
“The treatment and services available are second to none and it is most inspiring to meet others with ataxia.”
With the support of SFRS, Martin was transferred from operational duties to the HR Department in Hamilton. Unfortunately due to the recent restructure of SFRS means that this role no longer exists. Martin says: “I have been non-operational since 2007, so, it is less of a wrench to be leaving as I have not been taking part in this type of work for some-time now. The Fire Service has been excellent and I can think of no other employer who would have given me the same commitment. I have no complaints whatsoever.”
Most types of ataxia are progressive and sufferers almost inevitably become wheelchair bound and dependent upon others for their everyday needs. Currently there is no treatment or cure for most forms of ataxia, merely relief of some symptoms.
Although Martin has found adapting to living with ataxia challenging in many ways, he is continually thankful for all the support he has received from his family and the wider community saying that; “I am very fortunate. I attend Jubilee House where I receive physiotherapy and support for five days. Like a lot of things, you only get out of it what you put into it. I have now learned to pace myself. It is now more of a psychological benefit to me as opposed to physical.
“The treatment and services available are second to none and it is most inspiring to meet others with ataxia. The staff are so positive that it rubs off on you, it is hugely beneficial to me. The message I would like to get across is to be positive and don’t dwell on the things you cannot do. The future is uncertain but it is vital to keep your head up.”