For her whole life Linda dreamt of one thing; seeing Mount Everest. Sadly, being profoundly disabled, her dream was an impossibility.
When Linda came to Viarama she was intrigued by the idea of virtual reality but was unsure if she should even mention her dream to us. They are fragile things, dreams, as Dylan said, and building her hopes up only to be badly let down was something she had become used to over the years. Amazingly, she still allowed herself to be hopeful and when she asked us, very quietly in her polite and gentle voice, ‘…do you think there would be any possibility of seeing something to do with Mount Everest’, she was even more intrigued when we said yes.
We took her first to the wider area surrounding Everest, and then to the foothills, to let her see the base camp. Over the course of maybe 45 minutes we took her slowly higher, culminating with Linda being able to take in the view she had dreamt of seeing for so long. After a while spent up there, I – being careful not to intrude in such a special moment – asked if Linda was ok. When she asked to stop, I wasn’t sure how the experience had affected her, but on taking off the headset I notice straight away that she had been crying for some time as the foam mask that surrounds the lenses was wet with tears. Linda wasn’t sad though, as she was at pains to quickly tell me, she was crying because she was so happy that her dream had, in a way, finally came true. Linda made me take a video of her reaction, and in fact it can be seen on our Facebook page.
Recently we were honoured to meet HRH Princess Anne at Leuchie House to discuss our work in respite centres. We’ve been working with Leuchie since 2017 and have had so many wonderful experiences using VR to help those suffering from a wide variety of conditions. Leuchie is a place that is a lifeline for not just sufferers of neurological conditions but for their carers and family members too. It’s a charity that is funded by donations, and when we consider the vital role it plays in the lives of those it cares for it seems obvious that this is something our government should be paying for, to make its future certain.
Every week, Leuchie’s vital work takes some of the pressure off of people, and we’ve worked with so many sufferers and their families who would be truly lost without their visits there. At a time when cuts are badly affecting all of our key institutions, we must make sure that places like Leuchie receive the funds they require to continue to give first class care to those who need it most.
In another session recently, Mick was very keen to once again see the beach in Ibiza that’s next to where his grown-up daughter lives. It’s been too long since he’d been able to see it, he told me.
It’s worth noting that Mick gives off the energy of a man not afraid of much, if anything, and not even MS. It would be ‘nae bother’ he assured me. Cracking jokes prior to his session, and quite blasé about the experience in general, he seemed to be taking everything in his stride regarding his condition generally.
Perhaps that was why when he broke down in tears immediately after his session, it hit me quite hard afterwards. He was as surprised by his reaction as I was, and later told me he didn’t realise just how much it meant to him to see hi favourite place again. He suddenly realised how much he needed to have a good greet about his condition and his situation in general.
These are the kind of unforeseen positive consequences of sessions that we are still regularly surprised by.
In our work in nursing homes, hospices, and respite centres across Scotland I regularly marvel at the bravery with which Linda, Mick and so many others face their incredibly challenging lives. I see them dealing with these conditions with stoicism and real bravery, and they are buoyed by the love that those who care for them show on a daily basis. Through all of the hardships and the indignities and the daily struggles they must face, the quality of respite care they receive at Leuchie House gives them the strength they need to carry on.
All we need to do is give Leuchie House the support it needs to keep on keeping on.