Volunteers breathe life into therapy centre

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Oban’s MS Therapy centre has been providing a breath of fresh air to users from all over Argyll for more than 30 years and the dedicated fundraising team are now looking to step up their efforts once more in order to generate their own oxygen on site.

Users Sarah Jones and Janice Alcorn inside the chamber which has made a huge difference to their lives.

Built in 1990 the Glencruitten Road facility has been providing much needed relief to sufferers of chronic pain and fatigue through its baric oxygen chamber ever since as well as saving them a 180-mile round trip to Maryhill.

Having been diagnosed with MS in 1983 Janice Alcorn remembers the excruciating journeys well and was one of the founding members of the fundraising group that raised the money to have the Oban centre built.

She told us: ‘You name it we did it,’ she said. ‘People used to run up closes when they saw me coming as I would either be selling something or raffling something.

‘The people of Oban were amazing. There were only a few people in the town at the time who were getting baric oxygen treatment and everyone rallied round.

‘I travelled for seven years for the treatment and sometimes it was a matter of going twice or thrice a week.’

Thirty years on and Janice says that having the therapy centre in Oban has changed her life completely.

‘At one point I was totally blind in one eye, had double vision in the other and had difficulty with my balance, so having to travel on top of that made life incredibly difficult.

‘I don’t think I would have been able to continue to travel all those years for treatment.

‘The baric chamber is not a cure but it has certainly helped me lead a more normal life.’

Baric oxygen therapy involves breathing in pure oxygen through a mask while sitting in a pressurised chamber, much like the hyperbolic chamber that divers use for decompression sickness. There is no scientific evidence that the therapy works for chronic pain relief but established indications show that it is effective for conditions, including MS, fibromyalgia, headaches, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Former district fire officer Ken Munro has volunteered at the centre for 20 years and has witnessed the difference it has made to the lives of the users first hand.

‘I have been lucky enough to enjoy good health myself and wanted to give something back,’ he told us.

‘I see many people going in and out who’s lives are a lot better because of it.’

Ken is one of 18 fully trained volunteers who work at the centre and operate the chamber. The therapy centre relies totally on funding and only has one paid member of staff – manager Nicola MacKechnie.

‘I can’t praise our volunteers enough both in terms of the time they give to the centre and the effort they put into raising funds,’ she told us.

‘We are now looking to acquire an oxygen generator so that we can make our own oxygen on site.

‘We weren’t able to do much during Covid, although we did manage to get portable oxygen bottles out to those who needed it. The centre is so much more than the chamber, it provides a hub for the people that use it and it’s great to see everyone returning.

‘We want to make sure it is still providing that service for the next 30 years and beyond.’

Oban MS Therapy centre is free to use but donations are welcomed. To find out more about the sessions, volunteering or to donate email Nicola at oban.msc@btconnect.com or call  01631 566602 Monday to Friday.