A nurse’s quest to ease the suffering of Motor Neurone Disease (MND) patients has been boosted by the legacy fund of a prominent campaigner.
Gordon Aikman, a political activist, raised more than £500,000 after being diagnosed with the incurable condition.
As the degenerative disease took its toll on him, he established the Gordon Aikman Scholarship to drive forward research into MND and help future generations.
The 31-year-old died last February, and the first projects to be funded via his collection have now been announced as a way of marking the approaching anniversary of his death.
Dianne Fraser, a clinical specialist for MND in the neurology department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, has received £25,000 to further her work into relieving some of the condition’s worst effects.
She is one of just two people across the country to have been chosen for the first round of scholarships.
MND progressively robs sufferers of their motor functions, eventually leaving them without the power to swallow, cough or breathe.
Ms Fraser is investigating the use of a technique called “breath stacking”, which can reduce distress when choking occurs, keep the lungs elastic and healthy, and may reduce hospital admissions.
She said: “Being unable to breathe and cough effectively can be extremely distressing for patient and carer.
“Breath stacking may alleviate this, and has the added bonus of keeping the lungs elastic.
“In turn, this may keep lungs healthy and potentially reduce hospital admissions.”
Receiving the scholarship means that the nurse can afford to work part-time, with a colleague supporting her caseload, while she conducts “in-depth research”.
She added: “At the end 12 months, I will provide training, and a practical package of solutions, with the ultimate aim of every appropriate patient in Scotland being offered this simple technique.”
The other scholarship has been awarded to Alison Clarke, a leading nurse at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
She will examine what the best practice is for introducing people with MND to breathing support devices, ahead of establishing national guidelines.
Lawrence Cowan, chairman of MND Scotland and close friend of Gordon Aikman, said: “With these scholarships, we want to inspire people to keep pushing boundaries and make a difference to the lives of people affected by MND.
“His memory lives on through the researchers and care professionals working day in day out to fight this horrible disease.”