People mistake grandad battling Huntington’s for being ‘constantly drunk’

Martin, 54, from Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, loved doting on his five grandchildren and playing the flute but is now unable to feed himself or speak due to the genetic disease

Martin O’Rourke was diagnosed in 2015

The partner of a grandad battling Huntington’s disease has told how the devastating condition made people think he was ‘constantly drunk’.

Martin O’Rourke was diagnosed with the crippling neurological condition six years ago in 2015.

The once fit and healthy dad-of-seven worked as a roofer before he began to struggle with his balance, the Daily Record reports.

A blood test detected the disease, and in a tragic turn, his twin brother was also diagnosed with Huntington’s just one week later.

Martin, 54, from Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, loved doting on his five grandchildren and playing the flute but is now unable to feed himself or speak after the genetic disease robbed him of his life.

Partner of 27-years Sadie Henderson, 61, says police officers would often pick Martin up in the street, mistaking his symptoms for being drunk.

Martin O’Rourke and his partner of 27 years Sadie Henderson


Daily Record)

Now his full-time carer, Sadie is desperate to raise-awareness about the disease that has changed their lives forever.

She said: “I knew nothing about Huntington’s when he was diagnosed, I thought we’d cope okay.

“The first real symptoms I saw was when he started losing balance, he was swaying while walking and falling into things.

“Police would often lift Martin and bring him home for ‘being drunk’. People in shops would think he was drunk when he knocked things over. Nobody understood.”

Sadie, who shares seven children with Martin, has bravely opened up on how quickly Huntington’s has robbed Martin of his life and the turmoil the family endures.

“In the more recent years it’s taken a really bad turn,” she added. “Huntington’s has completely ruined Martin’s life.

His first symptoms was a loss of balance


Daily Record)

“He doesn’t have a life other than his bedroom and the TV. His brain still functions, but he can’t speak or do anything for himself.

“He has a catheter and is in a wheelchair. His arms move beyond his control so he can hit things, he’s lost over five stone and is so weak.

“We have to feed him two breakfasts and around eight dinners per day to try to keep the weight on.

“We don’t know how long we’ll have left with Martin. Doctors told me he could die from choking and I’ll just have to hold his hand.”

Despite the hardship the family endures, Sadie is determined to support Martin in his own home.

“The pandemic was difficult as we were shielding,” she said. “It’s really hard, I’ve had moments where I can’t take it any more, I want to put my jacket on and walk out.

“But Martin is my whole life, he needs me and I don’t know what I’ll do without him when he does pass away.

“Our family is a great help and we get there – but there should be more support for families living with this condition.”

After months of shielding during the pandemic, Sadie had encouraged a reluctant Martin to visit the tourist attraction as he rarely leaves his bed.

But the day out turned into a nightmare after he choked on a roll and turned blue.

Sadie said: “I really thought Martin was going to die in front of his grandkids. He went blue, his eyes popped out of his head, he was like a ragdoll in my arms, it was terrifying.

“My daughter was screaming, some of the children were watching.”

A heroic museum worker, known only as Donna, saved Martin’s life by performing the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Sadie praised the member of staff who, instead of judging Martin’s symptoms, sprung into action and saved his life.

More information about Huntington’s Disease can be found on the NHS website.

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