Gary’s story

Full time carer Gary explains why respite breaks at Leuchie are a lifeline for both him and his partner Ann Marie, who has MS.

"I think regular respite breaks at Leuchie House are priceless in the life of a couple dealing with the day-to-day struggles with MS, and the tough challenges it brings.

Everyone needs to have their own time. In every relationship you both need to have a chance to do your own thing. I think that’s amplified when you are caring for someone round-the-clock.

Ann Marie and I have been together since 2000. Our lives started to change significantly in 2003 when she was diagnosed with primary progressive MS.

I remember that at the time she told me that I didn’t need to hang around. But she’s the best girlfriend I’ve ever had. Of course I was going to stick around!

Over the next five years, her MS got progressively worse. First she had one stick, then two, then she used a wheelchair occasionally, then she needed to use a wheelchair permanently.

When she had to give up work, I carried on working part-time for a while. Then it came to the point when I knew that the best option was for me to stop working too so I could give Ann Marie the care she needed.

It can be hard work being a full time carer. Even during the night you’ve always got an ear tuned in, or you’re up and down. But that’s just the way it is and I know that Ann Marie really appreciates that I’m there for her.

For me, the hardest thing isn’t providing the care. It’s not being able to get out and about as much, and feeling that you can’t put yourself first. Instead you have to ensure all your partner’s needs are covered before you step out the door.

That’s one of the reasons why coming to Leuchie since 2010 has been so important to us both.

Ann Marie’s annual 11 night stay in May allows her to catch up with the many friends and staff she has met at Leuchie over the years. For me, it’s time to unwind and spend time with friends at home, or to take the opportunity to travel around Scotland or further afield for a few days.

Recently I was able to sample the ‘Leuchie experience’ for myself, when Ann Marie and I took advantage of ‘carers-go-free week’. It was simply magical.

As a keen amateur photographer, I just loved the grounds around the house and the various species of nature that can be seen on a regular basis. It was great to be able to use Leuchie as my base and head out to photograph on location around the East Lothian area. One day I even managed to enjoy the horse racing at Musselburgh. All this knowing that Ann Marie was being well looked after by the wonderful staff.

As a carer, life can be tough, hectic and there’s very little ‘me time’. Leuchie House fixes all that. From the moment you arrive you are made to feel welcome and well looked after. You don’t want for anything – even the washing is all done for you!

I really believe Leuchie breaks are important for keeping relationships together. We both get a chance to recharge, do our own thing and feel ready to go back to the everyday once again."