Kent MS Therapy Centre
Support manager Karen Middlemiss explains how the many services provided at the Kent MS Therapy Centre help to improve lives
We are so lucky to have a beautiful new building, only two years old, which was built as a result of 12 long years of active fundraising with no government funding at all. The atmosphere in the centre is happy and positive, but we don’t take credit for this – we know it’s our members who are motivated to get the most out of life and to manage their condition as well as they can. We worked so hard to reach our target to be accepted in the Big Give’s charity challenge last year, and to have [ital] Candis [ital] as our charity champion was the icing on the cake! The money raised via the Big Give has been used to improve facilities within our gym and our physiotherapy suite and increase access to neurological physiotherapists for our members. Earlier this year, we bought two new pieces of equipment including a multi gym, which enables people to exercise from their wheelchairs. Upper and lower body exercises are possible and it’s been enormously beneficial to members who are totally wheelchair-bound as before this, there wasn’t much they could do for themselves in the gym. On average, our members attend the centre weekly – some will even make a 60-mile round trip to use our services.
Our gym allows members to exercise in a social environment with others around them who have similar issues. This is important as exercising together leads to increased self-confidence as nobody feels conspicuous or awkward. We welcome people of varying ages into the centre, those who have been recently diagnosed as well as those who have been living with MS for as long as 35 years. The multi gym is great for users of all ages and abilities, particularly those with any balance issues as they can sit down to use it if necessary. When a person’s physical health is improving, it can have a positive effect on their mental health, which is really important. Exercise is not always about improving a person’s mobility; depending on where they are within the course of the condition it might be about trying to stay on an even keel. When members are doing things for themselves, it makes them feel more positive, which promotes greater well-being.
Around 90 per cent of MS patients experience balance problems so we made a decision to invest some of the money raised in a BalanceMaster. It’s a large piece of equipment with a rail they can hold on to, under the guidance of the physiotherapist. It moves very gradually and can help to improve or even correct balance. It is also useful to strengthen core muscles, which for those with walking problems is really important. Multiple sclerosis sufferers have muscle spasticity – when the muscles can go into a spastic state – which commonly affects ankle flexibility, and this machine helps to counteract this for them, which is vital for continued mobility.
We offer a variety of classes including Pilates for wheelchair users and mat-based and seat-based yoga. In addition, we also have an amazing hydrotherapy pool. This is often an emotional experience for both staff and users as watching someone who cannot walk, be able to do so from one side of the pool to the other can bring a tear to the eyes. Many of our members have confidence issues when swimming so we have a qualified swimming instructor/lifeguard, who helps them to overcome their fears. Some will even go on to a local pool with their family after a few one-to-one sessions with him, which is fantastic.
A popular therapy that we provide is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which is recommended over four weeks, with 20 sessions in total, followed by weekly top-up sessions. This amazing therapy can alleviate symptoms of fatigue and bladder urgency and frequency and help general mobility as oxygen extends the body’s ability to heal. Some members have been receiving this treatment, which is safe and has no side effects, for more than 25 years. Damage to the nervous system caused by MS can’t be prevented by oxygen therapy but as the body normally heals itself using oxygen from the air, additional oxygen can extend the body’s ability to heal and limit some of the damaged caused. This therapy is also offered to non-MS sufferers and can be beneficial for anyone who has a sports injury or those suffering from fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, general wound healing or maxillofacial trauma.
We have an experienced MS specialist counsellor on site who does an incredible job counselling recently diagnosed members and those with a longer-term diagnosis. Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) is very common, and is when a sufferer goes into a period of remission but with underlying damage taking place almost unobtrusively. When a person has had this type of MS for about 10-15 years, they then go on to a secondary progressive MS stage when they no longer have RRMS and many describe this as suddenly feeling like they’ve been “hit by a train”. Our counsellor can then talk them through the transition stage. We are one of two specialist MS counselling services in the whole of Kent, and we are proud that our counsellors are highly trained to understand the condition and the needs of our members.
All our therapies are free but we ask our members to make a minimal contribution towards the cost if they can. Some can give a small amount and some not at all. Families raising young children and caring for a husband or wife at the same time cannot afford to pay, but circumstances change over time and our members have a sense of pride and always want to give something back where possible. Multiple sclerosis affects people differently and we’ve had members raising money with car boot sales and cake sales as well as running marathons and climbing Kilimanjaro. They are all truly inspiring and we are dedicated to helping them to achieve their personal goals and live life to the full.
Money from the Big Give was used to extend facilities in the fully equipped gym and physiotherapy suite and offer access to neurological physiotherapists to our members.
Total Raised: £5,625
- The Kent MS Therapy Centre provides therapies to those with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the central nervous system, which is often progressive.
- Therapies available to members include hypnotherapy, acupuncture, massage, oxygen therapy and counselling.
- The centre has a fully equipped gym and a state-of-the-art specialist hydrotherapy suite.Services offered include specialised clinics, workshops and social events as well as fundraising opportunities for members and their families.For more information, visit kentmstc.org.uk.