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New hope for multiple sclerosis sufferer Lucy
IT is the highlight of the school year that every mum cherishes: plaiting and styling their young daughters’ hair for the much anticipated back to school photograph.
Sadly, Lucy Coggin has been robbed of this much-loved routine after multiple sclerosis (MS) rendered her right arm semi-paralysed.
But now that dream is a step closer to a reality for the mum-of-two from Pennington thanks to pioneering research being carried out by Southampton University.
The 40-year-old is one of five people testing out a special robotic device aimed at recovering movement in MS patients’ arms and empowering them to gain control of their lives again.
The degenerative condition, which normally strikes people between 20 and 40 years of age, causes severe damage to a substance called myelin coating the body’s nerve fibres, leaving sufferers with mobility problems and often wheelchair bound. Lucy, who lives in Priestlands Road, was diagnosed four years ago while living in Hull where she worked as a bank manager.
Symptoms began when she was unable to speak properly while reading a bedtime story to her youngest daughter Mia, now seven, and two days later was unable to sit up in bed.
Doctors initially put it down to the stress of breaking up with her partner.
But her condition worsened and now she can only walk with the aid of a stick and has lost most of the feeling on her right side – meaning she has switched to being left-handed.
She eventually gave up her job and returned to Hampshire to be closer to family and friends.
Lucy, whose older daughter Lauren is now eight, and goes to Pennington Junior School with her sister, said: “I can’t feel my arm so I don’t necessarily know what it is doing.
“I can give my children a hug in my own way but what I miss the most is being able to plait their hair.
“I would love to make them look nice for school photos but I just can’t feel it in my hands.
“It’s the little things you miss.”
In August she began the two month university trial which is funded by a £40,000 MS Society grant.
She is halfway through 18 one-hour sessions using the university’s SAIL device.
Participants place their arm in a support connected to electrodes with scientists using functional electrical stimulation (FES) to activate the nerves to encourage movement.
The team carefully control FES so people receive exactly the right amount to carry out a series of tasks based on movements and lifting.
Lucy, who is a member of the MS Society Lymington branch, said: “The trial is doing me some good and I can use my arm more and more although I don’t always know what it is doing.
“It’s vital research like this is done.”
Dr Ann-Marie Hughes is leading the project.
She thanked the MS Society and added: “Being able to use your arm is incredibly important for everyday things like washing and dressing, allowing us to remain as independent as possible.
“It helps us to be creative and through expressing emotion.
“This project could potentially lead to a new treatment to give people with MS better control of their arm movements.”
Lucy has also raised £900 for the MS Society after completing a 15,000ft sponsored parachute jump at Salisbury Airfield to mark the charity’s 60th anniversary.
She said: “It was an amazing feeling and was so great to do something helping other people in my position.”
- Sponsor her at justgiving.com/Lucy-Coggin
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