Saturday 24 August 2019

'I was only engaged a few months when I was diagnosed with MS' - dad-of-one (34)

Keith and Michelle on their wedding day.
Keith and Michelle on their wedding day.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“I was only engaged a few months and you’re still on a buzz from that.”

“The consultant called me after Christmas. I knew it was something serious if she was asking for me to come in and meet with her.”

Three months after Keith Byrne got engaged to his girlfriend Michelle, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a progressive neurological condition that can cause disability.

He had been experiencing symptoms like blurred vision, fatigue and poor balance, and was being treated for vertigo.

Keith Byrne on his wedding day with his bride Michelle and their families.
Keith Byrne on his wedding day with his bride Michelle and their families.

However, in January 2015, he 34-year-old Dublin man was told he had a relapsing-remitting form of MS.

“I was aware of what MS was from the extreme side of things. For it to be associated with me, I didn’t put the link together at all. My initial symptoms were blurred vision and I was told it was vertigo, and I was on tablets for a few weeks. Once the symptoms didn’t subside I was sent for an MRI two days before Christmas.”

“I went home and relayed the news back to my fiancé. The consultant asked me to come in with my fiance and she said she’d talk to us about it.”

“I knew someone who had primary progressive MS, I was close friends with their daughter, and sadly they passed away at a young age.”

Keith, Michelle and their baby Oliver.
Keith, Michelle and their baby Oliver.

He added: “My initial thoughts were of a wheelchair and thinking about getting the house changed. My doctor was very good, she managed to get me an appointment with the Dublin Neurological Institute at the Mater, and I met with the MS nurse in there and she was very honest but fair about how things are with MS. She was guiding me about the exercise and the nutrition as well as everything else.”

Keith was advised to follow a wheat-free, salt-free, and dairy-free diet.

“I took that on board and took on a strict enough routine, and within a few weeks it started to improve. The eyesight improved and the balance improved.”

“I couldn’t cross the road without fearing that I’d be knocked over. It took a while for the confidence in the mobility to come back.”

“I’d be going down to Clontarf for a walk every day. I was told the sea air was good for your balance.”

He added: "I had to reassess certain things within my life. Certain things like your diet and keeping active really affect your health. I tried to put that into practise a good bit more when I realised how important it was to me.”

Since being diagnosed, Keith has been awarded a degree in financial services; he got married last year; and is now dad to gorgeous ten-month-old Oliver.

“[Before the diagnosis] I’d no goals set for myself, I was just plodding along, working 9 to 5, late nights, not taking lunch, going out at the weekends.”

“This year I became a dad for the first time. Oliver was born in January, about two years after my diagnosis. As with anyone with a little baby, it’s a total new way of life. Fatigue can be a big thing with MS, but you do overcome the fatigue for him.”

Up until last July, Keith was injecting himself three times a week with the drug Copaxone. However, when an MRI scan showed up further lesions on his brain, he was advised to change to the drug Gilenya which he now takes daily.

“I’d have ups and downs emotionally,” he admitted, adding, “you learn to live with it and cope with it".

Last Wednesday though, Keith took part in the 10km Run in the Dark."

“I try to go running about three times a week, not always consistently, but because of the MS I’m always mindful not to let it slip longer than a week.”

“They say with MS, if you don’t use it you lose it. It motivates me to keep on top of it, especially with the darker nights.”

MS Ireland and Novartis Ireland Ltd will host a free public meeting for people living with MS, their family and friends, the general public and anyone working in MS on Thursday, November 30 from 6pm – 7:30pm at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College, 152 - 160 Pearse St, Dublin 2.

To RSVP you can email or call (01) 669 0030.

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