MS Helpline volunteer David talks about why he became a volunteer and how he’s been helping people during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Using the MS Helpline
When I was diagnosed with MS I was the managing director of a housing charity. I went from being in charge of a fairly large firm, and quite confident, to feeling pretty vulnerable.
I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. Physically it wasn’t too bad for me, though my balance wasn’t great so I wobbled like I’d had a few drinks. But the most significant and lasting symptoms were cognitive. My memory had gone downhill and I was finding it really hard to concentrate. I also had fatigue, a problem that many people with MS experience.
My job meant I needed to run on all cylinders and think on my feet for 12 hours most days, but it had become increasingly difficult. Following an independent occupational health assessment, it soon became clear I would probably have to finish work.
I needed to know the legal implications around stopping work because of a chronic health condition – so I called the MS Helpline. I spoke to the legal officer sponsored by the MS Society at the Disability Law Service. She gave me incredibly helpful support and advice, and for free. I couldn’t believe it. It restored my confidence and helped me face what was coming. Thankfully my employer was really supportive, but it made a big difference to go into the meetings knowing my rights.
Becoming a Helpline Volunteer
After all this, I saw an advert for MS Helpline volunteers. Knowing how much of a difference the service had made to me, I decided to apply.
Being involved with the MS Helpline has been a remarkable experience right from the start. It feels like a privilege to be part of it and I get as much out of it as I put in. As a volunteer you get solid gold training that really prepares you. On the MS Helpline you provide great information, but even more than that you’re there to provide emotional support and a friendly ear.
I love working with the MS Helpline team. It’s such a great quality, diverse group of people, with a common purpose and great commitment. They’re good fun too, and have a healthy sense of humour. I’ve made some fabulous new friends.
Volunteering during COVID-19
The MS Society set me up to volunteer from home, so I’ve been able to continue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the number of MS Helpline calls has shot up. For at least the first few weeks, it was almost the only topic people were calling about. This was especially true when the government released advice about vulnerability. Many people with MS were unsure if they were considered extremely vulnerable and what services were available to them.
The MS Society has been really great at posting regular updates on government advice and providing information related to coronavirus and MS. This means that we’ve been able to give really specific information about what might affect someone’s vulnerability or risk status.
A lot of people have been worried about accessing MS services at hospitals and GP surgeries, as well as getting groceries and medicines. We’ve been able to help many who have been quarantining register for priority delivery with supermarkets, and provide the latest information and emotional support to partners and families concerned about whether to go to work and possibly bring the infection home.
Each time I feel someone has finished their call in a better place than when they rang, it reminds me of that time I called the MS Society and how they helped me. I really recommend volunteering with the MS Society.
Volunteer with us
The COVID-19 pandemic means we can’t meet face-to-face right now, but there’s still ways to you can help us be there for everyone with MS. If you can volunteer some time remotely, by phone, video call, or online we’d love to hear from you.
Will you join us?