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Christmas at home will have special poignancy for former firefighter Brian MacDonald, who is battling motor neurone disease.
The 42-year-old says moving into the ‘free-range’ house and getting back his independence is one of the best Christmas gifts he could ask for.
Until recently, Brian was bedroom-bound at his mother’s Oban home, unable to get downstairs unless he was carried.
Last week his family helped him move into his new place, a one-level cottage as part of amenity complex run by Scottish charity Bield helping people live the life they want.
Although the houses are designed for over-60s, Brian’s special circumstances ticked all the right boxes and within just days of hearing one of the cottages was vacant, he had his new home.
‘I cried when I got the call saying it was mine. I rang my mum, she was in the hairdressers, and she cried too. I’ve got my own life back again and my independence – as much as I can.
‘My family moved me in, sorted my furniture and even put up the Christmas tree. I’ve got a massive TV – it’s like a cinema in here – and the nephews and nieces are coming round to watch a Christmas film.
‘I loved staying with mum but I was restricted to the bedroom because the only toilet was upstairs. To get downstairs I needed two or three people to carry me but now everything’s all on one level. I can wheel myself in and out to get fresh air and get down to the shops.
‘Everything is so much better. I feel amazing, I have a new lease of life,’ said Brian.
Bield is also looking at other changes to help make Brian’s life easier but funding is tight. He also has a driveway big enough for his wheelchair-access vehicle.
Despite the joy of a new home, Brian said his condition is deteriorating but he will boldly face the new year.
He has lost the use of his left-hand side and now the right side of his body is also becoming weaker.
‘I don’t know the time span of things. It’s the big unknown but my mobility is not good at all. I’ve still got use of one leg. All this is so raw for my family but we are talking about what the future will inevitably bring. I’m only 42, I was an active man – this should not be happening to me but it is,’ he said.
His family’s support and four carers visiting Brian each day are all helping him keep up his independence as long as possible.
‘I’m so grateful for everything I have. I try to keep smiling and do my best. As long as I can do that and keep talking, I’ll be happy with that,’ he added.
Brian’s shock diagnosis forced him to take early retirement this year after 13 years saving lives from fires in Glasgow. He had been struggling to lift his left arm in the shower but it was only when he struggled to pull himself into the driving seat of a fire engine that he went off sick and got help from a neurologist.
In August, he came home to Oban and has been touched by the community’s fundraising and generosity that included money from a diecast model show in Benderloch, boosted by a £600 donation from an Islay woman who wanted to help.
Another woman helped buy a rain cover for his powerchair, Tobermory fire station recently sent over a cheque for Brian’s MND fundraising and a massive £1,235 was raised at The View in Oban earlier this month in aid of Motor Neurone Disease Scotland.
Donations have also come from Oban Celtic Supporters’ Club and the St Vincent De Paul Society.
Funds to help make a difference to Brian’s 2020 are still needed.