‘You don’t know how you are going to wake up’

ALAN O’CONNOR was 36 years old when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

That was in 1985, when he was married with young children and worked as a successful banker in Cork.

His colleagues, who did not know for four years that he had MS, used to think he was returning to work from a ‘liquid’ lunch when his legs used to wobble.

Mr O’Connor, who now heads MS Ireland, first sought medical help after experiencing pins and needles in his legs 24 hours a day over a three-week period. He was diagnosed with MS.

He said losing one of his three children in a freak accident a short time before could have triggered the condition, the cause of which is still unknown. The pins and needles went away and he appeared to be back to full health. Only family and employer knew about his condition for four years.

“I still walked and played golf and none of my colleagues knew I had MS until my walking got very bad at one stage. A lot of my colleagues then decided I could no longer go out and enjoy myself. I was dropped from the social scene simply because I now had a disability.”

Mr O’Connor said fear of the unknown was the worst part of having MS. “You don’t know how you are going to wake up in the morning. What symptoms you will have. Of course, on the positive side, whatever symptoms you have could be gone in the morning.”

“It’s not fatal so it won’t kill you. I try to do everything. So what if I fall and stumble along the way. Other people do and they don’t have a disability.”

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