Specialist care for people living with Motor Neurone Disease – David’s story

With an expert team working with our neurological community specialist nurse, Saint Michael’s is able to provide practical and emotional support for people living with illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease. Here, David Umpleby, diagnosed with MND 4 years ago, and his daughter Susan reflect on the care and support they are receiving from Saint Michael’s.

Born in Darley, at the age of 15, David Umpleby took off for a long and illustrious career in the RAF, serving all over the world before meeting his future wife, auxiliary nurse Lily in 1960.

A chance encounter at a local dance led to a whirlwind courtship, marriage, the birth of their daughter Susan and 53 happy years together.

With David serving in the RAF, the family lived all over the Europe before returning to Harrogate in 1980, before retiring in 1993.

In 2014 Lily sadly died, and in the same year, David was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. “I had not been feeling 100% but pushed aside my symptoms to focus on caring for Lily” he said.

When his speech started to deteriorate, David thought it was because of a fall he had had. Eventually his GP sent him to a neurologist who gave David the diagnosis he had been waiting for. “I was ready for the diagnosis,” said David. “I am a positive person and this is what has been dealt to me, so I will just deal with it.”

The neurologist referred David to Saint Michael’s for support from our neurological community specialist nurse.

“She really understood what I was going through,” said David. “Although no-one with MND has exactly the same symptoms, the Saint Michael’s team had so much experience to help us. “

Susan and David have attended outpatient support provided by Saint Michael’s for patients living with MND and their families.

“It was a really bonding experience,” said Susan. “We were able to spend quality time together, doing activities like painting and pottery. It was really positive.”

She added: “Saint Michael’s has been wonderful at supporting us with practical things too, like accessing specialist equipment – for example a stairlift, a wheelchair and a riser recliner chair, really quickly. Having that support makes everything so much easier.”

And when Susan had to have a small operation, David was able to go into the hospice for a week to be cared for.

“It was excellent, said David. “I had a lovely room with a beautiful view and I really enjoyed the company, playing dominos with the staff. I didn’t have to worry about anything. I knew I was safe.”

This care also took away some of the stress for Susan, knowing her dad was in good hands and his condition managed.

David added: “Although life has become more difficult as both my speech and mobility deteriorate, I stay positive and cheerful and refuse to give up. I do hope the doctors and research scientists will find a successful cure for Motor Neurone Disease one day soon.”

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