John McNaughton hopes stem cell treatment in Mexico will halt his MS symptoms
GLENS of Antrim man John McNaughton is hoping that stem cell treatment in Mexico can halt the symptoms of the Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis he was diagnosed with six years ago.
The 43-year-old's condition has deteriorated rapidly and he uses a wheelchair. Today he takes pleasure in watching his five children play as his days of joining in are behind him.
The family live in Glenariff and Mr McNaughton says the dream outcome of the gruelling, and expensive, treatment in Mexico would be to walk again.
"Or if I could just stop the disease progressing it would be a great result."
To that end a fundraising campaign has been launched to raise the £65,000 needed to pay for the medical regime.
"Sadly none of the disease modifying drugs have worked on me. I don't know anyone who has deteriorated as badly as me in such a short space of time. I had hoped it would be quite slow. My legs are bad, my right leg is totally gone. My upper body is fine but I've noticed a weakness coming into my wrist which is worrying," Mr McNaughton said.
"There are things I'd like to be doing with the children but I can't anymore. It's the simple things. A simple job is now a massive job. Basic things like carrying the weans upstairs to bed is a no-no."
Patricia McNaughton is her husband's carer.
"There's a lot of pressure on her and she never complains but the way I am, and with five young children, it's a lot more pressure than you would ever want to put on her," he said.
Mr McNaughton was diagnosed in May 2011 after two years of symptoms.
A former hurler turned referee, he noticed he was slowing down on the field but attributed it to his age and fitness levels despite being in his mid thirites.
Blurred vision was the next symptom and then "silly things; I was tripping a bit more and was a wee bit unsteady on my feet".
It was attributed to his having "a bad back" but one day his sister remarked that his gait reminded her of someone she knew with MS.
The Glenariff man was referred to a neurologist and MS was diagnosed.
MS is a neurological condition that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
"There are lots of negatives but you have to look for the positive," Mr McNaughton says.
"I can drive because the car's an automatic and specially adapted with hand controls. That's great because it gives me independence. Without it I'd be stuck in the house.
"I'm very lucky to be mentally strong and to live in a beautiful place where I can look out the window and watch the children playing."
The family are fundraising for his 28-day visit to the clinic in Mexico which will involve chemotherapy and stem cell treatment.
He is booked in for September and believes that it is his only chance because if his condition continues to deteriorate at the same pace he will soon be ineligible for treatment.
Mr McNaughton says the Glens community "has been absolutely brilliant" about fundraising.
"The kindness and generosity of people has been heartwarming."
One of the fundraising events organised is a truck and tractor show and family fun day which is being held on April 29 at the Loughgiel Millenium Centre.
You can also donate by visiting https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/john-mcnaughton
To find out more about MS visit https://www.mssociety.org.uk/