Born in Derby 1979, Claire moved at the age of four to a small village in South Wales. Music played a fundamental part in her life from an early age singing in all the County choirs from Junior school to University. At the age of fifteen she won the Welsh Singer of the Year competition. She still sings and writes songs alongside her husband Nev.
Claire has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system and is the most common neurological condition among young adults today. Her diagnosis came while she was in her second year at university. “It began with an strange sensation in my left arm. It would suddenly shake and shudder uncontrollably without notice or warning. This was closely followed by tripping over my own feet as opposed to obstacles or uneven paving,” she continues.
She knew something was wrong and after some swift tests the diagnosis of MS quickly followed. Claire carried on with her studies and completed her degree in English & American Studies at University whilst remaining immersed in her music.
MS can be a tiring condition and after a short career in offshore and private banking, Claire realised that it suited neither her nor her illness. When Claire met Nev she was able to do what she really loved. “It was so fantastic to be involved in something that both excites and interests me. In the music studio the equipment and computer and recording spaces are all within easy reach”.
Exercise is particularly important for people living with MS as it assists in keeping muscles moving. Claire exercises on a daily basis combining gym work, physio, stretch classes and kayaking in a specially adapted boat, all complemented by meditation, swimming and a strict plant based diet.
“I’m very lucky. Nev does all the cooking and works wonders with fresh ingredients. The balance of exercise and nutrition is working for me and I feel healthier now than I have done in years.” Since changing her diet & life style she has not had a relapse in over eight years.
Claire is an inspiration and instigated rowing for the disabled at Guildford Rowing Club where Robert Hall coached people on the river Wey in a specially adapted rowing boat.
Part of Claire’s daily routine is being part of the Samson Centre for MS. The Samson Centre is a totally self-funded charity which provides physiotherapy, exercise classes, gym sessions and oxygen therapy for people living with MS. With running costs of nearly £300k per year it relies on fundraising activities and donations to support its activities. If you would like to help more people like Claire, please visit our our donations page.
A Man In Control
Martin was the Chairman of trustees of the Samson Centre for 10 years up until Oct 2019.
In his early twenties, having embarked on a Civil Engineering degree at Sheffield University he soon realised that he had embarked on the wrong path. He stayed for two years and made the most of his time by becoming Chair of the students’ entertainment committee and arranging weekly discos and bands to entertain some 1300 students. “It was the 70’s,“ recalls Martin. “Not only were there the students to entertain, you also had the bands, security staff, the bar and even drugs to contend with. You certainly had to have your wits about you.”
Having walked away from his degree, HM Customs and Excise beckoned where he worked as a VAT Inspector until he saw the possibility of a career in IT. Having become an accomplished programmer, he was ready to move on. Starting with the Milk Marketing Board he had found a career that would see him move through the ranks to Project Manager and finally to IT Manager for Unigate covering the UK HQ and St Ivel European Foods Division. Extensive travel was required.
In 1995, Martin was diagnosed with MS. That such a minor symptom as neck pain could herald the onset of a life-altering condition was indeed a bombshell. “The pain was eventually eased by the use of steroids. All in all I remained in pretty good shape for the next four years,” he ends.
Everything started to change in 1999 when Martin’s symptoms began to present themselves in earnest. Within 18 months, Martin’s mobility had deteriorated further and constant travel and flights were becoming problematic. “I asked to be moved from my position and revert back to project management and therefore have a base in one office.”
In 2007, aged 53, Martin elected to retire due to his ill health. This meant that he remained in control and as ever his decisions were running ahead of his symptoms.
Shortly into his retirement Martin came across a leaflet about the Samson Centre for MS and his first thoughts were “why didn’t anyone tell me about this before? ”. Within a week of first seeing the leaflet Martin had joined, soon thereafter became a Trustee and then two years later took on the role of Chairman of the Trustees.
“The Samson Centre is such an amazing place for people living with MS. It provides physiotherapy, exercise and oxygen therapy all within a supportive and welcoming environment. It also offers an excellent opportunity to talk to other people who have a real understanding of living with what is essentially a progressive and debilitating condition.”
If you would like to help Martin to help even more people who are living with multiple sclerosis visit our donations page
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.