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‘I meet so many brave patients at The National’

To kick off the new year, we are starting a brand new series of blogs. Each month you’ll get to meet a patient, a member of hospital staff or a supporter of the charity. They’ll be telling us their story and why they spend their time and energy supporting us.

I’ve been a patient at the National Hospital for over 20 years now and have seen so many changes – and all such positive ones.

Around 30 years ago two of my fingers on my left hand went completely numb. It turned out to be a condition called transverse myelitis, which is a specific sort of damage to my spinal cord. It affects day-to-day life as the muscles on my left side are weak and I also have a dropped foot which makes walking difficult. My left hand has very little strength which means using it for fiddly things is virtually impossible. I used to love sewing and knitting and sadly they are made hard by my condition. It’s a struggle to even finely chop vegetables.

My walking is unstable, and because of that my overall confidence is affected, too. I can’t walk far and become a bit anxious in crowded situations. It’s frustrating because I used to be very active and was a keen gardener − now I have to do it in short periods and sometimes can’t manage it all − very annoying when I feel the flower beds need clearing!

I can’t talk highly enough of my care at the hospital. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the same consultant for the last 20 years! But it’s not just my consultant, I have great confidence in all the staff at The National Hospital.

When I visit the hospital I often find it very touching − many of the patients in the waiting room are so brave and it makes me realise that I could be in a worse position. I find meeting young parents with neurological conditions very upsetting and desperately hope that theirs is a condition that can be treated.

I was so interested to hear about Professor Geoffrey Raisman, from the Institute of Neurology at UCL, who discovered that cells in the nose can help to regenerate spinal nerve fibres. Such groundbreaking research! I hope that there will be lots of funding for further research into damaged nerves and their repair.

I wasn’t really aware of the extent of the work of The National Brain Appeal until my daughter Eva became more involved with the charity. In October last year she helped to organise the Letter In Mind fundraising event at the Oxo gallery in London, which was a great success. I was determined to get to the opening night by tube and on foot, and I did it! I found the exhibition so personal, beautiful and also very poignant. Seeing visual responses to so many very different experiences gave me an insight into how people feel about neurological conditions.

I loved meeting The National Brain Appeal team at the event and could see their drive and commitment. The visitors were impressed and I’m hoping for another art event later this year. It helps to spread the word about the work of The National Brain Appeal and all the amazing work it does for the hospital and its patients.

Jane Tait, patient, Buckinghamshire

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