Mervyn Hyndman from Magherafelt was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis over 20 years ago, soon after his symptoms started. It was a shocking blow that left Mervyn reeling before a self-awareness course with Maghera Day Centre helped him to move on with life again.
And he hasn’t stopped, from bird watching to computer courses and designing websites Mervyn is always on the go!
“I had four children, all at primary school when I was diagnosed with secondary progressive MS. I was also a workaholic as well as a volunteer bird-ringer with the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and was interested in all forms of wildlife and at 40 years old and with the mortgage cleared life seemed pretty good.
“Then I started to have trouble with my legs and the consultant noticed that there was a lack of coordination in my eyes, although I had no problems with my vision. These are classic symptoms of multiple sclerosis and luckily for me they were able to make a diagnosis fairly quickly.
"I had to give up my work and most of my volunteer activities and sank into a terrible depression and shut myself away. I kept myself isolated for about a year or so.
“It was through a self-awareness course and later an anger-management course, set up by Maghera day center that I was able to take stock, accept the diagnosis and move on, which I did do. It really did make a difference for me; it was brilliant to meet other people who had MS and realise that I wasn’t the only one.
“Computers were just growing in popularity at that time so I thought right, I will learn all I can and teach the children. It really kept me motivated and the more I learned the more I wanted to learn. It was great to be able to spend time with the children – soon they were teaching their teachers at school. It is hard to believe now but at that time very few people were confident on computers.
“I was also still bird-ringing as part of ongoing research into migration patterns of birds by the BTO, many a good day and night was spent catching and recording our native birds from rare Seabirds to endangered Raptors like owls, peregrine falcons, albeit on a much less active basis.
“I met lots of people through it, including local celebrities but sadly I am no longer as involved and have to accept things as they are, although I still send records via email to the Ulster Museum on bird sightings and moths.
“About six years ago I started using a wheelchair. Now my greatest interest is designing websites which keeps me motivated and is great for me as it is something I can do sitting on my backside!”
“All of the children are up now, the youngest Kyle is doing his A-levels next year, Julie, 20 and Steven, 22 are at university and both are studying languages. Jacqueline, 24, has just graduated as a primary school teacher. She is also qualified to work with disabled children, I am very proud of them all.
“My wife Irene and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary last year, so life is good. I am heading away on the Action MS Medicare Break during the summer; I went for the first time last year and really enjoyed it. There is no keeping me in nowadays!
“I would say to anyone diagnosed with MS, don’t dwell on it too much no matter how bad things are and try to move on. Accept things as they are, what else can you do.”