Anna Conway talks to us about her father, Paddy Leahy who passed away from motor neurone disease in 2007.
“My father Paddy was a fit, active and very intelligent man. He had a love of animals and nature and kept dogs all of his life,” says Anna. “He always walked in the Phoenix Park and had a keen interest in hill-walking - he continued his weekly hill walks until just before his diagnosis of motor neuron disease in 2004.”
A progressive neurological condition Motor Neurone Disease (MND) attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which leads to weakness and wasting. It can affect how you walk, talk, eat, drink and even breathe. There is currently no cure for the disease and most people die within 1,000 days of being diagnosed.
Paddy passed away in September 2007 but Anna and her family have many treasured memories of him. “We loved helping him in the garden and with the dogs, going for walks in the Phoenix Park, looking at books and photographs with him and his routine of pretending to push our car as we reversed off their drive to ensure that we were definitely going home!” she says.
The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association (IMNDA) is the primary care and support organisation for people living with MND in Ireland, and their families. The charity, which relies heavily on donations from the public and events like the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon, was able to offer Paddy and his family invaluable support.
“The IMNDA provided Paddy with a custom-made wheelchair which was essential as his illness progressed,” Anna explains. “This greatly improved his quality of life at this time and also meant he was still able to go outside and enjoy walks with his family. It also provided a nurse who supported the family during Paddy’s illness.”
The IMNDA works to increase awareness of the illness and the effects it has on both the patient and their family. Since 1985 ladies from all over Ireland have been taking part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon to raise funds so the IMNDA can provide support services to families living with this debilitating disease.
Last year alone participants raised over €50,000 for the IMNDA and this money helps to fund day-to-day care for patients. Specialised equipment for just one patient can cost the association up to €30,500, while each MND nurse costs approx. €75,000 a year.
Anna and members of her family have taken part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon since 2007, in honour of Paddy and to raise funds for the IMNDA. “Depending on commitments, at least two of the family have participated each year, some years a lot more of us take part,” Anna explains. “There is a great atmosphere on the day during the race; particularly at the starting line before the race starts and in Donnybrook when the fire service encourages the participants. The atmosphere in the pub, where all participants completing the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon for IMNDA gather before and after the race, is also fantastic.”
If you would like to take part in this years Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon for the IMNDA go to http://imnda.ie/category/events/