Denise Amato was leading a very busy life in 2011, running a small business with her husband and looking forward to future travel plans, when, at the age of 56, she started experiencing fatigue and muscle weakness in her legs and the left side of her body.
This, she would later come to realise, was the beginning of her journey with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), the neurological condition she was diagnosed with two years later.
Denise has lived in Albany most of her life and has always been a very active member of the community, spending a lot of time outdoors – walking, swimming and bodyboarding. Today, symptoms of reduced mobility and fatigue have meant taking a step back from some of the more high-intensity activities. She recalls one of the hardest things to give up after her diagnosis was her regular involvement in ‘Granny Grommets’ – an over-50s women’s bodyboarding group who meet every Friday, rain, hail or shine. Happily, she remains a social member and is in regular contact with the group.
Denise continues to swim recreationally, and in 2019 – along with a squad of her family and fabulous “swim buddies” – raised over $14,000 for MSWA by participating in the annual MSWA Albany Swim.
Until recently, Denise had avoided a traditional mobility walker but was delighted when her MSWA Support Coordinator, Lisa, sourced a stylish, ultra-lite graphite design. “I’m very pleased with my new super-duper ‘oyster white’ walker,” laughs Denise.
She credits MSWA with opening so many doors for her that wouldn’t have been accessible otherwise. “The thing I value the most about MSWA is that for the past 7 years they have been the one and only constant in my journey. The facilities MSWA provide and the money they are contributing to research I know, from personal experience, make a real difference to the lives of ordinary people trying to come to terms with living with multiple sclerosis.
“Before my diagnosis, I had been used to being independent and keeping active. It took me a long time to realise I could call on help and that I should not feel guilty about accepting it. For example, Maureen, the MSWA nurse in Albany, encouraged me to sign up to the NDIS before I turned 65. I didn’t think it was appropriate for me, but it opened up a whole lot of doors for us. My husband had polio as a child, so he is also living with a disability. An NDIS plan enabled us to get a yard man, which is a fantastic help."
“I have a very supportive family and close friends whom I value greatly and MSWA have taken a lot of the stress off them as I can source help independently."
Currently, Denise accesses MSWA’s physiotherapy, yoga and nursing services. She also attends the annual retreat in the Great Southern, which she adores. “I love the yearly MSWA Camp in Denmark. Everything is taken care of for us. It’s a little bit of a break and allows some respite for family. I probably think about MS less than I ever do when I’m on those camps. They are so much fun”.
Denise welcomed the recent announcement that MSWA haven begun constructing a new state-of-the-art $7m facility in Albany. A purpose-built Services Centre will continue to provide MSWA’s regional Clients with services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing, counselling, speech, dietetics and outreach.
“Everyone’s very excited about the new Centre. I go regularly to physiotherapy at the current Lotteries House location. It’s a shared facility and the physios operate out of a couple of small rooms, so it’s very constrained. They do an amazing job with the space they have but the new dedicated location will make a huge difference.”
Pictured: Denise with fellow MSWA Clients and staff visiting the site of the new $7m Facility.
In addition, an adjoining High Support Accommodation Facility will feature 10 fully accessible units to cater for MSWA’s high support Clients, with 24-hour care provided on-site. It will be the first accommodation facility of its kind in the Great Southern.
“The opportunity for people living with neurological conditions in Albany to have specialised living facilities is so important,” explains Denise. “There’s people younger than me who are currently in nursing homes because there’s nowhere else to go.”
“Nobody living with MS really knows what the future holds for them, but I do know that I am in very good hands with MSWA and that means a lot.”
If you'd like to find out how MSWA can support people living with a neurological condition, call us on 1300 097 989 or fill in the below form.