I think that I have been lucky to have had the best job ever working for a Society that offers so much to its members and to its staff.
When I started with the Society in March 1988, information was very difficult to find; we certainly did not have the access to computers and to information resources that we do today. As a result the Society produced information bulletins for members and for Health Professionals that were sent out four times a year covering all aspects of living with Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s. These bulletins were sent to various individuals throughout the country and to Regions; to the extent that Canterbury became very well known as the go-to place for evidence-based resources.
The Society also saw value in live-in weeks/weekends as ways of educating and supporting people when newly diagnosed. My first month in my role as Community Resources Co-ordinator saw me attend a newly diagnosed weekend for people with MS and their families at Pudding Hill Leisure Resort, a venue just outside Methven; and a live-in week for people with Parkinson’s and their spouses at the same place. The Parkinson’s Live-in Weeks continued to be held annually and the MS bi-annually.
For these events to be successful, staff purchased all the supplies, cooked all the meals, assisted with cares, were responsible for group work and also provided social opportunities. I well remember jet boating at Rakaia Gorge; tethered balloon rides; and horse riding and hiking around the foothills. Support to individuals and their families continued to be a pivotal service.
To ensure that my knowledge and skills were current, I went to several MS Consortium Conferences in America and to the Australasian Parkinson’s Conferences. I also spent three week in Canada and America, visiting MS Societies and Parkinson’s Centres and looking for resources to bring back to the Society–information that was unavailable in NZ. The Society still uses some of them today.
As my role changed within the Society, so did the programmes offered to members. No longer did we need to produce information resources and the need for live-in weeks became less significant. The next major changes were the development of the Physiotherapy services, moving from Parkinson’s exercises being held in the hall (often up to 17 people at a session) to the format offered today. It was very exciting to be involved in the development of the gym, the sourcing of equipment to meet the needs of members, and the employment of full-time Physiotherapists.
When the new injectable medications were funded in 1999 for people with MS, the Society saw the need to be involved in supporting people manage these treatments; we worked with Neurologists and the drug companies to ensure that this was able to be implemented. The development of the Living Well with Parkinson’s and the Fatigue Programme, Minimise Fatigue Maximise Life, were also highlights, as was the privilege of working alongside Jessie Snowdon and Dr Hilda Mulligan.
I must acknowledge the thousands of people I have met over my time with the Society–you have shared so much with me over these years. Your strength, courage and determination continue to inspire me. You have shared your journey with me and I know that the Society has been and will continue to support you.
The Health Professionals who work with members, you have made my job and that of the staff so much easier by your willingness to work as a team and by your acknowledgement of the work the Society offers.
The Board, you continued to challenge me and to support me to ensure service provision is where it should be; I thank you for all the hours you so freely give to the work of the Society. To Malcolm Rickerby, we have been criticised, ostracised and chastised all in the name of ensuring that services to people with MS and Parkinson’s are where and what they should be at a National level. We still have some mountains to climb but have achieved so much over the years. Your support to me has been incredible and I thank you for this.
To my wonderful, dedicated and compassionate staff, you all work so hard so that members and families receive information and support services. You have all contributed so much to my life and to the work of the Society. I thank you for your friendship and kindness to me. Your professionalism is second to none and I know that the Society is in good heart. I will miss you all.
I know that the Society will go from strength to strength; I feel so very privileged to have played a part in the development of service provision to people with MS and Parkinson’s. Go well, stay safe–I will miss you all so very much.
My family have been so involved in several areas of the Society, from child minding at the Live –in Weekends, waitressing at the fund raising French Breakfast; collecting for the Street Appeal, attending the Fun Walk; making my life easier. I promise that I will be the best and cheapest child minder for them. My husband Brian who has been the Society’s handyman, office furniture mover, Street Appeal and Golf Tournament co-ordinator, and car cleaner: Brian retired two years ago and is already saying to me, “You are not going to mess up my routine”. Well, yes I am; but I am excited about spending quality time with you.
With warm regards