MS Patient conquers the ski slopes with HCT

Posted: April 23 2019

Despite living with MS for almost 15 years, MS patient Claire does not let the condition dictate her life.

MS Patient conquers the ski slopes with HCT

MS patient Claire Fenlon (centre) on the slopes of The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead with HCT Neuro Physio Jody Barber (right)

Claire Fenlon is looking out on the pristine white slopes of The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead Hertfordshire as she turns to us and says: “It’s the freedom it gives you and the ability to join in with your family and not feel left out.”

Living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for almost 15 years, the former NHS dietitian is about to embark on her Sit-Ski lesson with Disability Snowsport UK, whilst being closely observed by Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s (HCT) Neurological Physiotherapist, Jody Barber.

Claire tells us that she has always been determined not to let her condition dictate her life saying: “even when the condition does progress, all you do is adapt.”

Affecting approximately 100,000 people in the UK with 5,000 being newly diagnosed each year, the neurological condition, which affects your nervous system, stays with you for life.

Currently receiving highly specialised physiotherapy from HCT’s Neurological Service, the keen skier mentioned her upcoming Sit-Ski lesson during an assessment with Jody.

Conscious of the different pressures the sport would put on her body, Jody joined Claire during a lesson and told us why: “I was looking for key components of movements and motor control that Claire needs in order to Sit-Ski. My observations today help form a basis of what we will work on in Claire’s therapy sessions, this includes her right side thoracic spine rotation and linear trunk extension.”

So how hard is it to learn how to Sit-Ski and what are its advantages, particularly with someone living with MS? Peter Thorpe from Disability Snowsport UK explains: “Learning to Sit-Ski is challenging, especially when it comes to balance. Once mastered, it gives someone the ability to ski without help, become self-sufficient, even being able to load themselves on chair lifts.”

MS can affect any part of the nervous system and often exhibits a number of silent symptoms including sensory changes, visual difficulties, balance problems and fatigue with the latter being the most annoying for Claire: “The tiredness that the MS brings is frustrating and that’s why I started to fall more towards the end of my lesson. It’s hard to admit you’ve got too tired and need a rest but it’s important you do.”

HCT’s Neurological Service offers a variety of options for adults with a neurological diagnosis such as MS with treatment designed around individual needs and preferences allowing people to participate in their community to their full potential.
Asked about what advice she would give to anyone recently diagnosed or living with MS, Claire went on to say: “Go for it. Don’t let MS hold you back, there’s a way around everything. Even if it does progress, you adapt.”

Watch Claire in action on the slopes here.

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