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Caring Aberdeen woman ‘touched the lives of hundreds’ after giving up work following MS diagnosis

Mary Ross cuddling a lamb on an activity day on her recent holiday.
Mary Ross cuddling a lamb on an activity day on her recent holiday.

Mary Ross spent most of her working life caring for other people before she was diagnosed with MS.

It started off when she was in her 30s, with a feeling that one of her legs had gone to sleep.

“I was dragging one leg and there was numbness and pins and needles,” she explains.

“I just got on with it.”

Giving up her work

The mother-of-three ended up diagnosed with the neurological condition multiple sclerosis (MS), which affects the brain and nerves, in 1996 when she was 46.

Sharing her story for MS Awareness Week, she said she temporarily lost sight in one eye – but it permanently affected her mobility.

Main symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
Main symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

“I had to give up work,” Mary, of Airyhall in Aberdeen, said. “In the very last job I did in a nursing home I just couldn’t do it, by the end of the shift I was dragging my feet behind me.”

But she carried on helping people, despite her illness…

Determined not to give in to her illness, Mary then turned to volunteering, finding a new role assisting families with young children at the charity Home-Start.

It was the perfect role for Mary, who had worked as a midwife at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and as a health visitor in Westhill for many years.

Mary Ross has helped care for other families for most of her life.
Mary Ross has helped care for other families for most of her life.

“It was a befriending role,” Mary, who was also a trustee during her 15 years with  Home-Start, said. “One family had a disabled child and I used to read to them.

“And I’d be there with the children if the parents wanted to go out. I would look after the child at home.”

Diagnosed with MS: It can be difficult to go on holiday

Once diagnosed, MS stays with you for the rest of your life. There’s currently no cure but there are medicines and other treatments that can help ease symptoms.

Mary, now 72, uses a wheelchair and needs a hoist as well as help from carers and her husband Peter at home.

It was difficult to find anywhere she could go on holiday to get a break until she came across a national care centre at Leuchie House a few years ago.

Mary Ross cuddling a lamb during an activity day at Leuchie House.
Mary Ross cuddling a lamb during an activity day at Leuchie House.

Mary has now had several respite breaks at the North Berwick site, where health professionals are on hand to help guests out with any specialist needs.

Guests are taught how to use apps to carry out tasks such as controlling lights or opening curtains to give them more independence when they return home.

The grandmother-of-five gets the use of a MOTOmed machine to exercise her legs at the centre and has learned how to use a tablet computer to help make her life easier.

‘It’s nice to get a change of scenery’

“It’s a nice break, a change of scenery – and the care is exceptional,” Mary explains. “It gives my husband a break as well.

“I can’t do practical things at home, I can’t do any housework.”

Anyone diagnosed with MS, or other long-term health conditions, can apply for respite break funding through their local social work department to stay at Leuchie House.

Mary Ross enjoys getting a break at Leuchie House.
Mary Ross enjoys getting a break at Leuchie House.

‘Mary has touched so many lives’

Eleanor McEwan, general manager of Home-Start Aberdeen said the charity was “so grateful” for all the help Mary had given to families during her volunteering years.

“Through her work as a home-visiting volunteer and a trustee on our board, Mary has touched the lives of hundreds of families in Aberdeen, helping them to give their children a better start in life.

“We’re so grateful to her for everything she’s done for us and for making a real difference to the lives of so many children and families.”


We’d like to share your story

Every Friday lunchtime we highlight an incredible story about recovery, overcoming illness and bravery.

Have you overcome a health challenge, lost weight or got fit and are now in a position to help others by talking about your journey?

We’d love to hear from you as we look to offer information, insight and inspiration through our content.

You can get in touch by emailing me at charlotte.thomson@ajl.co.uk

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