A fellow af student has opened up about his recently diagnosed debilitating condition to raise awareness.
Andrew Hamilton, 18, from Bangor, was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder (FND) last month after suffering limb and some bowel problems, which led to him spending eight weeks in Ulster Hospital.
FND is a nervous system disorder that causes problems with how the brain and body send and receive signals. The neurological condition currently affects up to 100,000 adults and up to 20,000 young adults under the age of 16 in the UK.
Andrew, a disabled rights activist, also has left hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. He was born visually impaired and became blind two years ago.
The year 14 student at Strangford Integrated College is currently a representative for North Down UK Youth Parliament and plans to study politics at university to pursue a career.
FND is characterized by a problem with nervous system function, and patients live with life-changing symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and long-term disabilities similar to MS.
Historically, it was a marginalized disease that often fell through the gap between neurology and psychiatry.
Andrew’s FND diagnosis came as a huge shock and resulted in him having to learn to walk again on his own. A week after being released from the hospital, he is still recovering.
Andrew is now keen to raise awareness of the disease and is determined that his disability will not affect his future plans for a career in politics or government.
He told The Postedia: “There is really a lack of knowledge about FND so I would like to raise awareness following my recent diagnosis. I am grateful for the quick diagnosis and grateful to all the staff who looked after me and helped.
“However, I have since learned that there is no standardized treatment for FND in the NHS, resulting in people suffering for years and an average time to diagnosis of two years.
“As I would describe it, it’s not a hardware problem with the brain like MS, it’s the software side of it, the brain’s signals being confused or misinterpreted.
“It actually has a very good prognosis and it’s about getting the brain back to a normal state, so it’s a very misunderstood condition.”
“I went to hospital in mid-December after having limb problems and bladder and bowel problems which prevented me from eating or drinking for a while. I had a lot of movement problems and couldn’t walk, so I had to rely on that.” in a wheelchair,” he explained.
“I thought it was all caused by left hemiplegia, but it gradually went downhill. I was diagnosed with FND in early January and then had to start treatment and the recovery process, including learning to walk again without assistance.
“It’s just trying to process my symptoms and get back to normal life. FND is truly individual and recovery can take weeks, months or years depending on the symptoms, so everyone’s experience is different.
“I already have a lot of experience with disability campaigns and that won’t hold me back. I want to use my experience to bring more disabilities to places like the youth parliament.”
Andrew spent Christmas and New Year in hospital and experienced first-hand the stresses of the Northern Ireland healthcare system, particularly in the emergency room but also on the wards.
“The pressure on staff is enormous, especially given the number of patients entering the hospital, combined with a small workforce and an underfunded and neglected healthcare system,” he said.
“We now need a functioning assembly and executive to serve the people of Northern Ireland and protect our valuable health service.”
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Source: Bel Fast Live