Learning to live with Multiple Sclerosis

In 2016 Fiona contacted ARC with hopes for assistance in managing her Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and challenges associated with her condition. Six years on, she is still a regular attendee at the clinic and, more recently via Zoom, and we’d like to share a little of her story. You may have seen her client video story on the website, in which case you will have a glimpse of what a wonderfully optimistic and life-loving lady Fiona is, and if you haven’t seen it, then please do check it out here https://youtu.be/udtpKegU1Jw guaranteed to make you smile.

Fiona was diagnosed with MS in 2013, at which time she was an active mother of 2 young kids and working full time as a high school teacher. Life was busy but full in a good way for the most part, though, of course, with the ups and downs we all face. In the three years from diagnosis to when we first met Fiona, she had developed weakness and spasticity and needed help with tasks that required two hands, such as tying her hair or doing buttons etc. Walking became harder though she was independent and used an orthotic to help her left foot clear the floor. Fiona had taken a year off work to have a break and focus on her rehab and was motivated to regain some of the functions she had lost. Her goals included walking further and with less effort and managing stairs with greater ease, which was needed in her school environment.

On the first meeting, Fiona, the distance she covered in her 6-minute walk test was 220m. This is slow and was one of the measures which we have tracked with Fiona ever since. Most recently, in August of this year, Fiona completed 184m in her 6-minute walk test, which we are super proud of. To have dropped her distance over 6.5 years by only 36m is an outstanding result in the context of a condition such as MS, which is both progressive and degenerative in nature. The focus of therapy and management for Fiona is to optimise her function to give her the chance to live her best life both for today and for all of her tomorrows.

Fiona is an inspiration to work with and embodies the spirit of giving everything her best and giving anything a go! Over the past six years, Fiona has become known to so many within our ARC team, including:

  • The physio team who work with her regularly put her through her paces to ensure she keeps her function for her walking, stairs, and getting on and off the …..not Fiona’s favourite exercise, but she still gives it a go! The physio team also assists in managing her spasticity through exercise, communicating with her specialist who provides Botox injections, and organising assessment and fitting with a specialist second skin garment to help with her arm posture. A carer assisted exercise program that incorporates Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) to help Fiona best access her muscle activation in her left arm.
  • The occupational therapy team stays involved regularly and assists her in organising home modifications or equipment to make life safe and more functional for Fiona at home.
  • The exercise physiology team supports her in optimising her fitness and strength to manage her challenges with mobility and function, managing her fatigue, and reducing her secondary health risks associated with reduced activity levels so common in disability and neurological conditions.
  • Our allied health assistants can offer those crucial extra sessions to boost the work done by the other team members.
  • From our specific MS classes (both on land in a hydrotherapy pool) to neuro-balance class to upper limb group therapy, our group classes help guide Fiona to access the activities she needs to target her functional needs.

And of course,

  • Our colleagues from Orthomotion manage Fiona’s left foot orthosis and ensure this is reviewed and revised regularly to suit any changing needs.

Through the years, friendships have been made, and one of the most wonderful things we therapists see in working with clients such as Fiona is the fantastic support they offer to each other. The laughter in classes, the coffee catch-ups, the calls and texts to check in on each other. The sense of a community looking out for one another, bringing new clients into the fold and offering that support to others all over again. Living with a neurological condition such as MS is by no means easy, and there will always be times when the challenges weigh you down, but getting back up and keeping looking for the joy in your own life and what you bring to others is a fantastic way to approach life touching so many lives around you.

We hope that we are helping Fiona live her best life with our therapy and supports, but as a team, we also sit back and watch with pride the fantastic support and learnings that our clients get from each other. Thank you Fiona, for always bringing your beautiful smile and laughter into the clinic and reminding us all to live our best lives.

By Anna Jones

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