Motor Neurone disease 'like a monster taking over his body'

The aunt of a young man who died from motor neurone disease has called for better help and support for people living with the condition in Northern Ireland.

31-year-old Christopher Armstrong died just before Christmas, after he was given his devastating diagnosis aged just 29.

Christopher was a vibrant young man living and teaching in Dubai with his then fiance Laura, when he first began experiencing symptoms.

His GP in Northern Ireland told him he faced a three to five year waiting list for a neurology appointment so he travelled to Glasgow for a diagnosis.

His auntie Deborah McFarlane has spoken to UTV about his experience of the disease to highlight what she says are gaps in care here.

"The neurologist basically did the test and then said to him, you have usually kills people within two to five years, it's going to kill you."

It comes as a new report is published by the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

It aims to raise awareness of what the charity says is 'a lack of care and other services available to people with MND in Northern Ireland.'

Around 140 people in Northern Ireland are living with MND.

It is a fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

It can affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, eat and ultimately to breathe.

A third of people die within a year of diagnosis and half within two years.

There is no effective treatment and no cure.

Patrick Malone, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Adviser NI for the MND Association said: “This report is a very stark reminder of the multitude of challenges and difficulties people with MND in Northern Ireland unfortunately have to face every day.

"We look forward to working with all our representatives to implement the recommendations in this report in order to try to improve the quality of life for people living with MND in NI”.

Deborah described the symptoms her nephew experienced as he began to deteriorate very quickly.

"It was like a monster taking over his body because it's waking up every day not knowing what was going to deteriorate more it started off with not being able to clap his hands."

Christopher eventually became paralysed and struggled to breathe, he died on December, 13 and is survived by his fiance and his unborn child, his mother Angela and all his family and friends.

In a statement the Department of Health said: “The Department recognises that there are significant pressures on neurology services in NI, including in those available to people diagnosed with MND.

"In this context, the Department is progressing a Regional Review of Neurology services tasked with identifying the optimum configuration of Neurology services for the next 10-15 years.

"It is expected that a final report, which will include consideration of workforce pressures, will be completed in March 2023.

"The ability to take forward any additional services or re-configuration in this area will be dependent both on having Ministerial decision-making ability and the availability of resources."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.