Halifax and Calder Valley branch – Multiple Sclerosis Society
Some words about the society and the local branch from Liz Schofield, Support Officer.
So what is MS……? Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the central nervous system. It is the most common disabling neurological disease among young adults affecting around 100,000 people in the UK. MS is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40; women are almost twice as likely to develop it as men. But we are now seeing children diagnosed too.
Once a diagnosis is given, MS stays with you for life. Although its cause is not known and a cure has yet to be identified, research continues into all aspects of the condition.
Basically, surrounding and protecting the nerve fibres of the central nervous system is an important substance called myelin. This helps messages travel quickly and smoothly between the brain and the rest of the body.
MS is an autoimmune condition. This means that the immune system mistakes our body’s own tissue as something foreign, such as infectious bacteria, and attacks it.
In MS, the immune system attacks myelin. This damages the myelin and strips it off the nerve fibres, either partially or completely, leaving scars known as lesions or plaques.
The myelin damage disrupts messages travelling along nerve fibres – they can slow down, become distorted, pass from one nerve fibre to another (short circuiting), or not get through at all. One analogy is if you liken the effect to an electric cable with bits of the plastic worn away, or split leaving bare wires showing which become broken and distorted. Your TV view
is distorted or intermittent or the screen goes completely blank. That is what MS is like.
As well as myelin loss, there can also be damage to the actual nerve fibres. It is this nerve damage that causes the accumulation of disability that can occur over time.
As the central nervous system links all bodily activities, almost anywhere can be affected by MS. The specific symptoms depend upon which part of the central nervous system is affected and the job of the damaged nerve. Many people experience only a few symptoms and it is unlikely that anyone will develop them all.
The very unpredictability of the condition makes it difficult to understand and manage.
The symptoms listed below can also have other causes, so even if someone has a diagnosis of MS, it is important not to assume symptoms are all due to the MS. If they have another cause, the treatment might also need to be different.
The type of symptoms can be;
balance, fatigue, visual impairment, numbness, tingling, pins and needles, bladder control, cognitive difficulties, stiffness and spasms, emotional and mood changes, tremor, bowel, sexual dysfunction, speech and swallowing difficulties, and problems with gauging temperature.
As far as our Branch goes, we depend on donations and our fundraising activities to operate. We don’t get government funding… Because we are a branch of a national charity, we can’t usually access local funding available to other community charities. All the people who volunteer do it as non paid.
As a branch we have to adhere to guidelines set down by the MS National Centre to make sure that rules governed by the Charities Commission are met. MS Society is a Company Limited by Guarantee so Company Legislation affects what we do too.
We can award grants to people with MS for a variety of things…for example computers, driving lessons, accessible homes adaptations and even cutlery! We have a sub group who make decisions on applications.
Sometimes people just want to talk to a person not involved with their situation. Others need advice about how to access services, benefits etc. so we do quite a bit of signposting to other organisations.
We run social activities for people to come along to including boat trips, seaside trips and a monthly social at Pellon Social Club.
During the year our fundraising team organise events which could be supermarket collections or Charity evenings. We attend the Charity Galas at Halifax and Brighouse and lots of other things. We are always looking for helpers, so if you have a few hours to spare give us a ring!