A Man On The Right Track
24 years ago, aged 37, Chris began suffering from an enduring headache which just wouldn’t go away. “At the time, I feared the worst and hoped for the best outcome” Chris vividly recalls. “Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis was actually a relief at first” he continues.
That said, Chris was unprepared for what was to follow. “All down my right side there was the constant sensation of pins and needles. This would often result in my right leg collapsing from under me. From diagnosis the progression of the disease was gradual and I battled with fatigue and the increasing need for mobility aids. In time I had deteriorated and went from using a walking stick to needing crutches and then finally needing to use a wheelchair. I had been such an active person and suddenly found I was unable to carry on as before”.
Chris came across the Samson Centre for MS through a chance encounter. Fortunately for him Carol Kitching, a Samson Centre for MS volunteer happened to be organising one of her charity collection days on the high street in Dorking. Upon noticing the wording on the blue collection boxes, Chris immediately made enquiries. A few days later he joined the Samson Centre for MS and immediately grasped what it could offer him with both hands. “From the day I first walked into the building in 2013 three stone heavier than I am now through lack of mobility I might add, I have never looked back”.
“I have had an unbelievable support network behind me here. With physiotherapy and exercise I have come a long way”. But I have also been lucky and my body has responded well. With multiple sclerosis no two people will have the same experience. It is an individual disease and a personal journey and you don’t know how your body will react”.
Part of that support included advice on the wearing and fitting of an FES (functional electrical stimulator) which is a control box no bigger than a pack of cards that Chris wears. This clever, concealed device sends small electrical impulses directly to the nerves in muscles that have been affected by the disruption in the nerve pathway to and from the brain, ultimately caused by the multiple sclerosis. Chris trains three times a week and works in circuit training and indoor rowing alongside his physiotherapy and other exercise programme.
It was during one of his sessions on the rowing machine that Robert Hall a rowing coach noticed his natural stroke and invited him down to the river on a Friday morning to have a go at the real thing in an adaptive rowing boat. “That was it, I was hooked” beams Chris. “The Friday morning sessions are for people with disabilities and I love every minute of them. I am also keen to encourage others and help out with training some of the junior members. It is a great way for young people to overcome anxiety issues and to gradually build their confidence.