Ricky has been coming to Leuchie House for regular breaks since 1985. Over the past 34 years, he has been witness to significant changes, not only in the way Leuchie operates, but in the care and support available for people like him living with multiple sclerosis.
"My wife Jean and I first heard about Leuchie House in 1985 through the Clydebank branch of the MS Society. They recommended Leuchie as somewhere we could have a break together, with the care that Jean in particular needed.
Jean and I had been married in 1964 and over the next few years we had our two children and enjoyed a regular family life, while I worked as an accountant in Glasgow.
Unbeknown to me, at a medical check in 1961 I had been diagnosed with MS but, as was often the way in those days, the doctor didn’t share the diagnosis with me. It wasn’t until 1965, when Jean was pregnant, that it was revealed in a discussion with our doctor. It was a shock at the time but the progression was quite gradual and life carried on much as before.
It was a much greater shock to find out 10 years later that Jean had MS too. At first, we didn’t realise quite how much of an impact it would have on our lives, expecting her progression to be like mine. However she had secondary progressive MS and after initial treatment and a period of remission, she went into hospital in 1979 where she was to spend the next 29 years. The children were 12 and 14 when she was admitted.
By 1984, I had to take the decision to retire from work because of the impact of my MS on my concentration, my speech and vision.
That first visit to Leuchie House together in 1985 opened up to us the chance to spend periods of quality time together. Although I visited Jean in hospital every night she was there, having a break at Leuchie meant we could do everyday things together again. It was lovely to go out on trips and have meals together, all the little things we were no longer able to do otherwise.
When we first came to Leuchie it was run by an order of Servite nuns, who were supported by volunteers from home and abroad. The room that is the main guest lounge today was the nuns’ chapel at the time. Leuchie had a real family feel even then. Sister Frances, who led the order, was a qualified nurse and she dealt with medical care, supported by four or five other nuns.
Over the next 20 years, Jean and I enjoyed breaks at Leuchie two or three times a year. They were very special times for us.
In 1998 when the MS Society took over the running of Leuchie as their respite centre in Scotland, as you’d expect, they introduced more specialist care, with more qualified nurses and night shift staff giving 24 hour care, as well as a physiotherapy service.
When the MS Society announced Leuchie would be closing down in 2010, I joined in the campaign to save it, writing to Nicola Sturgeon and taking part in a meeting at the Scottish Parliament with local MSP Iain Gray. It was too important to too many people to let it close. It was wonderful to get the news that Leuchie was going to continue as an independent charity.
Over the years, Leuchie has become a normal part of my life. I know the place so well and have a strong bond with the staff.
For the past 10 years since Jean passed away, I’ve been coming to Leuchie on my own. I still enjoy my time here very much and it’s always a welcome break from being at home where I live on my own.
You’re treated as an individual and you know you’ll be looked after well which is more and more important to me. Leuchie’s physiotherapist even helped me to get a new wheelchair by making a referral to the NHS for me.
When I come to Leuchie I get back some of my independence which makes a big difference to me, even the small things like being able to decide for myself what time I go to bed.
No one here dwells on your disability. They help you to do as much as you want to do.
The social side is also really important to me, getting a chance to meet and chat with other people. I’ve made some great friends with other guests over the years and I really enjoy meeting up with them at Leuchie. Getting the chance to play Scrabble, which I love, is great too.
I also enjoy been able to get out and about while I’m at Leuchie, going to places like the Museum of Flight and the Falkirk Wheel, as well as travelling around the East Lothian coast and countryside.
I always feel better after a break at Leuchie and hope it will continue to be part of my life for years to come."
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