Andy Walsh.

Mayo man raises awareness of Multiple Sclerosis ahead of World MS Day

A MAYO man diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis during the pandemic has been speaking, in advance of World MS Day, about the bright days ahead that he's looking forward to.

Andy Walsh, from Ballinrobe, reflecting on what was a 'dim' year for everyone in 2020, says that this year a new bulb has been installed 'and it shines much better and brighter'.

World MS Day 2021 takes place on Sunday, May 30, to raise awareness for people living with Multiple Sclerosis. In today’s current climate, the day takes on new importance as the 9,000 people in Ireland living with MS have faced various challenges throughout the pandemic.

The theme this year is ‘connections’ and the campaign is about challenging social barriers and stigma that can leave people affected by MS feeling lonely and isolated, building communities that support and nurture people affected by MS, promoting self-care and healthy living with MS, and lobbying decision-makers for better services and effective treatment.

Speaking about living with MS, Andy said: “I’m feeling good, my body feels strong, my treatment is going well.

“I can only control the controllable and I’m going to reduce the amount of time I find myself thinking and talking about things I’m not in control of. I’ll deal with it in six months’ time when that arrives, and jump that bridge when I get there.”

He continued: “World MS Day is coming up on May 30. Technically it’s my second one but I’m not really counting the one in 2020. Why? Because like everything in 2020 the light at the end of the tunnel was very dim. This year a new bulb has been installed and it shines much better and brighter.”

Among the things Andy has his eyes set on is getting back on his racer bike and out in the long evenings. “I loved the freedom that cycling gave me in the past, but the balance problems that MS brought to me had knocked my confidence,” he said.

Ava Battles, chief executive of MS Ireland, commented: “The MS Connections campaign is all about building community connection. Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic and restrictions some of these connections that our community heavily rely on may have suffered and in some cases are no longer available.

“Our community have endured cancelled appointments, delayed treatments, and restrictions on our services such as face to face community meet ups which meant they also lost some of the physical and emotional day-to-day support that is invaluable to them. The pandemic made us realise just how important these connections really are. World MS Day is a day where we can highlight how valued these connections are to the people we support as we all look forward to our lives going back to some normality in the coming months ahead.”

Virtual Balloon Race

World MS Day 2021 is set to be a very different affair to previous years. The international day of awareness and fundraising is met with a whole new set of challenges this year. Yet, now, more than ever the MS community need support and advice.

In light of this, MS Ireland decided that this year’s World MS Day should go off with a BANG! (virtually).

There are over 9,000 people in Ireland living with MS and so they are launching a Virtual Balloon Race where it is hoped to have 9,000 virtual balloons flying, one for each person in Ireland living with MS.

Using algorithms, live weather systems and Google maps, the virtual balloon racing platform allows balloons to behave, fly and burst just like real balloons.

The balloons will be virtually launched from the care centre in Bushy Park on May 30 at 9 p.m.

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