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Oban’s Brian MacDonald has signed up for the largest ever trial of drugs tackling motor neurone disease.
If selected, the retired firefighter, shocked by his diagnosis, could be joining the likes of rugby legend Doddie Weir whose namesake charity has already raised £5 million for research into the disease.
The former Scotland international star has called on every MND patient in Scotland to join him.
Brian registered his interest in taking part as soon as he heard about it and is determined to be chosen.
The 42-year-old, who last week officially retired from the fire service after 13 years of life-saving service in Glasgow, said he had big hopes for the trial – if not for himself, for others battling the condition.
‘My MND nurse told me to watch the news for it but I registered my interest 13 minutes before it went out on TV.
‘This trial is massive for myself and anyone else who has MND. I’m hoping there will be a cure one day. I’m hoping they find a drug that would halt the progression for me just now and then look at finding something that could reverse it so I could be back fighting fit.
‘Even if it helped me stay the way I am now and I didn’t lose my voice, I could be happy with that. As long as I can still talk and have a laugh, MND can take my limbs away,’ he said.
Just before Christmas, Brian moved out of the upstairs bedroom at his mother’s Drummore Road and into a one-level cottage run by Scottish charity Bield helping people live the life they want.
Despite the move giving him back some independence, his condition is deteriorating. He has lost the use of his left-hand side and now the right side of his body is also becoming weaker but he still has his voice and sense of humour.
‘I’m taking each day as it comes,’ said Brian, who has received financial support from well-wishers wanting to improve his quality of life. More help is still needed.
MND causes muscle wasting and loss of nerve cells that control movement, speech and breathing.
Hundreds of MND patients will be able to take part in the new MND-SMART clinical trial and the first participants will be seen in Edinburgh at the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic with other clinics across the UK joining during this year.
The trial has been developed to find effective medicines more quickly, allowing more than one treatment to be tested at the same time and meaning patients are more likely to receive an active drug. New drugs can be added and medicines that are not producing results can be dropped.
As well as trying out new drugs, medications already licensed for other conditions such as anxiety, depression or Alzheimer’s will be tested.
The clinical trial is a collaboration between University College London, the University of Warwick and the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research at the University of Edinburgh.
Funding for it has come from the Euan MacDonald Centre, MND Scotland and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
Lawrence Cowan, chairman of MND Scotland, said: ‘This is an historic moment in our fightback against motor neurone disease.’
Last week more than 100 people, including three buses bringing Brian’s former fire service colleagues from Glasgow, turned out for his official farewell ceremony at Oban Fire Station.
Glasgow Area Commander Roddie Keith said it was ‘a mark of the man’ that so many people wanted to be there and praised him for ‘showing his true colours’ in the determined way he was facing his health challenges.
‘Brian has played his part and more in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, making the community of Glasgow a much safer place and attending some of the biggest incidents in the city’s recent times. It’s been a varied, lengthy and quite remarkable career. Retired or not, you [Brian] will always be part of our fire service family. We are here to support you,’ he said.