30 May 2022

Celebrating connections this World MS Day

| Clare McCabe
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Carer holding the hands of a person in a wheelchair

This World MS Day (30 May) the MS International Federation is championing support networks. Photo: File.

Before his diagnosis, farmer Rob Bell believed Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was a disease that only affected others.

“The only thing I knew about it was that it was one of those things that happened to someone else,” he said.

It’s easy to be optimistic; however, research showed that one in three Australians would be directly impacted by MS through a family member, friend or colleague.

In addition, more than 25,000 Australians are living with MS and three out of four are women, according to MS Research Australia.

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Six people at the Taj Mahal

Rob Bell (front) at the Taj Mahal with (left to right behind) carers Sukhvir, Arun and Hayden, his cousin Percy Bell and his driver. Photo: Supplied.

Mr Bell ran a sheep grazing property at Breadalbane in the southern tablelands for many years.

Then in 2011, he was diagnosed with primary progressive MS.

“The most debilitating thing is the fatigue,” he said.

“I’m always tired.”

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic and often debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system. There is no cure.

World MS Day takes place on 30 May every year. It brings the global MS community together to share stories, raise awareness and campaign with everyone affected by MS.

This World MS Day, the MS International Federation is raising awareness and championing support networks.

On the eve of World MS Day (Sunday 29 May) the MS Walk Run + Roll, an annual charity event to raise money to support people living with MS, took place in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Launceston.

Participants were challenged to walk, run or roll between 4 km and 10 km.

More than $800,000 was raised by 6075 people.

Fundraising provides services and support for people living with MS, including MS Connect and MS Advisor.

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Three men

Australia’s High-Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell and Percy Bell with Rob Bell in India. Photo: Supplied.

Every case of MS is different. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS vary for everyone.

Mr Bell visited a doctor multiple times while experiencing extreme fatigue and a sensation in his left arm. He was diagnosed following a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

A decade since his diagnosis, he said he is living “within the boundaries” of MS but can still get around with the help of his carers.

“I go to town every day for a cup of coffee or something,” he said.

“We’ve been to see Top Gun.”

In 1991 Mr Bell was in a horse-riding accident and spent four months in hospital rehabilitating.

He was paralysed on the right side of his body but soon learned to be independent with the care of his wife.

However symptoms of MS, including weakness in his limbs, have led him to require constant care.

“I can’t do without help,” he said.

Despite this, Mr Bell travelled to India with his carers in April – a 10-day journey during which he “thrived”. His carers, along with an additional two Indian carers, supported him.

You can get involved in World MS Day 2022 by sharing the World MS Day tools on social media, holding or attending an event, sharing connections or employment experiences, connecting people affected by MS to MS research and lobbying politicians to make positive changes for people affected by MS.

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