NEUROLOGICAL care in the town has improved significantly even within the last year according to a Great Western Hospital consultant.

Dr Graham Lennox, consultant neurologist at the GWH in Swindon, was a guest speaker at a gathering of volunteers, fundraisers and healthcare professionals from across north Wiltshire at the Coleview Community Centre on Thursday, October 31 to celebrate 25 years supporting the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

The event was organised by the MNDA's North Wiltshire Group which helps provide support to local people with MND, their families and carers.

The night was kicked off by guest speaker Dr Lennox, who said: "I think it is fair to say that when I moved to the area a year ago, neurology science in Swindon was at a low ebb, being held together by specialist nurses. But I am now pleased to say that we have four consultant neurologists working in the hospital and three specialist nurses on the team.

"I would also like to put it on record how helpful the local group have been in aiding us in caring for people with MND in the area."

The group's chairman, Alison Aviss, said: “We wanted this event to celebrate the group’s achievements over the past 25 years, acknowledge and reward the selfless contribution of our volunteers and to look forward to the future.

“It is quite amazing that the founding members are still very actively involved and that over £250,000 has been raised. This money helps us to provide support to local people affected by this disease and also help with the cost of home adaptations and specialist equipment.”

MND is the name given to a group of related diseases affecting the motor neurones (nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. The disease leaves people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves and life expectancy for most people with MND is just two to five years.

Dr Lennox was followed by the night's second guest speaker Sally Light, the Chief Executive of the MNDA. Sally spoke of the dreams and aspirations of the association and of her career goal to one day be be made redundant.

Following the speeches, the group paid tribute to local hero Martin O'Shea who lost his battle with MND earlier this year but whose fundraising efforts helped raise over £21,000 for the association.

The night was capped by an awards presentation in which a number of the group's volunteers were honoured. Bob Perry was awarded for his seven years on the group committee and sterling work as previous group chair.

Jo Hyde of Prospect Hospice in Wroughton, which helps care for people suffering with MND, received a Thumbs Up Rose to be planted at the hospice, and Emily Akers was awarded for her five years of fundraising support.

Paul Wilkinson, who is living with MND and who has done great things to raise the profile of MND in Swindon over the past few years, was also awarded for his contributions.

The most notable award of the evening was presented to legendary fundraiser Anne Collison and her mother Ruby, both of whom have worked tirelessly since the group's inception to help raise funds for the association through local events.

Anne, who founded the group 25 years ago, accepted a certificate and framed association rose from MND's Lucy Etheridge and said that whilst she now intended to take a step back from some of her duties within the group, she would be continuing to raise funds for the association.

Having handed out most of the awards on the evening, the group was surprised to receive one of its own as Merv Johns, from the Wiltshire Freemasons emerged from the crowd to present Alison with a cheque for £200 on behalf of the Masonic Golf Association and a further cheque for £220 on behalf of members of Highworth Lodge. The contributions were made in memory of a member who had MND.

The celebrations concluded with a special presentation of newspaper clippings charting the group's achievements over the years.

Mayor of Swindon Nick Martin, who was in attendance on the night said: “It was a very impressive evening. I feel the event has been both educational and informative.

"Fortunately not too many people suffer from MND, so we don't see too many people who are victims. However, tonight has reminded me how MND is both incurable and surprisingly short term.

"I wish the group and the association every success in the future."

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