herald

Sunday 25 June 2017

'My Aisling's MND diagnosis was devastating - she was so young'

John and Aisling married within a year of her diagnosis so that she would be able to walk down the aisle
John and Aisling married within a year of her diagnosis so that she would be able to walk down the aisle

A man whose wife died aged just 36 following a battle with motor neurone disease (MND) has spoken of the devastating toll the illness took on her life.

Aisling Martin, from Wexford, was just 30 when she was diagnosed with the terminal illness in 2006.

Her husband, John Archbold (38), from Finglas, Co Dublin, told how they were left devastated when she received the shocking news from doctors.

MND mostly affects older people, but young people are not immune from having to deal with the cruel condition.

The progressive neurological disease - which traps patients in their own bodies and kills 95pc within 1,000 days of diagnosis - largely affects those between 50 and 70. Though it is very rare to suffer the condition under 40, more cases are emerging and young people's lives are being cut short.

John told how, despite the cruel hand she had been dealt, Aisling was determined to live life to the full.

"Right until the end she kept that determined spark she had and we spent all day every day together, so we were luckier than many couples to have so much time," John told the Herald.

Adventurous

He recalled how the two first met while working near to each other in the city centre.

"Aisling and I used to work in office buildings beside each other and I'd see her across from my window," he said.

"One day we got chatting and then we started emailing and we'd go for cups of tea together.

"I loved her very much and she loved me. She was such a funny, adventurous woman and it was devastating when she was diagnosed.

"Aisling was so young. I told her I'd be with her all the time no matter what and, six months later, we got married."

The couple wed on January 5, 2007, and although Aisling went to bed earlier than all her guests, she was able to enjoy her special day.

"We wanted to do it while she could still walk down the aisle," John said. "I was so proud to call her my wife. We had a great day.

"We hadn't really discussed children but the day she was told that being pregnant might place too much of a strain on her body, Aisling was so upset.

"It was having the choice of being a mother taken from her that hurt so much."

MND continues to confound scientists, who have been unable to find a much-sought-after cure, although the drug Riluzole has proven effective in managing the condition.

John said the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) helped him and Aisling cope with the trauma of the diagnosis.

Some 381 MND patients are registered with IMNDA and, out of those, 11 are under the age of 40.

Each sufferer has to come to terms with the fact that they will soon be unable to walk, talk, eat or drink unaided.

As the illness grips people's bodies, their muscles weaken and waste away.

IMNDA needs about €1.6m in funding each year to help patients, providing equipment and support for them and their carers.

One of the most important roles it carries out is counselling and friendship for those who are suffering.

Voice

Throughout February, the charity is running a sponsored silence campaign #Voice4MND and is asking people to "lose your voice" for a period of time to imagine how those with MND feel.

For those who wish to get involved, email fundraising@imnda.ie for sponsor cards or text MND to 50300 to donate €2 to the charity.

The condition made headlines worldwide in the summer of 2014, when the "Ice Bucket Challenge" went viral. The challenge saw people raise money and awareness for MND by being filmed having a bucket of iced water emptied on their head.

"There will never be another charity event like the Ice Bucket Challenge," an IMNDA spokeswoman said. "But we need people to keep remembering we need help."

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