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Scots dancer struck down with MND aged 20 urges government to back research

A talented Scots dancer who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) aged just 20 has urged Government chiefs to plough millions into researching the ‘death sentence’ condition.

We told in June how Natalie Rushton, who has competed internationally, was given the horror diagnosis as she looked forward to her 21st birthday.

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. It can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat or breathe unaided.

Natalie is urging the government to do more

Natalie, who has been dancing since she was two, was so shocked she could not speak about it for weeks.

In 2019, she had collapsed at work as an online business travel support consultant.

But with the coronavirus crisis it took months for her to be diagnosed and she has now spoken out to say the condition can strike at any age.

Natalie, from East Kilbride, has now joined rugby union legend Doddie Weir and hundreds of others in signing a personal letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for investment into targeted research, which will be delivered directly to Number 10 on Tuesday, reports Glasgow Live.

They are asking for £50million over five years.

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The letter states “MND is a death sentence’ but that ‘research has now reached a point where a cure or life-saving treatments can be found.

“The current piecemeal and protracted approach of funding individual projects will not deliver the life-saving treatments we need…we urgently appeal for action and investment now.”

Natalie said: “I have signed this patient letter to the Prime Minister because I think that more funding is required to go into this research programme.

“This is important to me as I am only 21 years old and living with this deadly disease. I am hoping that this research means that a drug can be found to stop my symptoms progressing but may also find a cure for this disease, that would allow us all to have some sort of a normal life without it being about all hospital appointments and endless days of discomfort or pain.

“Having this disease has changed my life in many ways. One of the most mentally changing things for me is that I was a dancer and now not able to do this. I used to dance in Cheer, Pom and Hip-Hop from the age of seven, and later on, musical theatre at 16, which involved competing in Disneyland Paris, while also continuing to practice ballet, tap, modern, disco and majorettes.

“Also not being a 21-year-old that can just go out with friends and do whatever we like is very difficult.

“I have to now plan each outing days in advance, for example, going out for drinks, dinner or shopping and have to rely on my friends pushing me in a wheelchair where the area is difficult or if I get tired, which is very frustrating.

“”It is important to find a cure for this horrible disease where it either stops progression or cures us completely. If there was a cure to make it completely disappear it would allow me to have my old life back and be a normal 21 year-old.

“On the other hand, if there is a cure to stop my body’s deterioration this would allow me to come to terms with the stage I am at and not worry if I am going to get worse within a month, 6 months, a year or even 5 years’ time, as it is such an unpredictable deadly disease.

“To the Prime Minister, please help us! Without this funding we will never be able to get a cure of some sort. This funding would allow us to fight the disease with hope that it won’t kill us before a cure is found.”

Currently the UK Government’s funding for targeted MND research stands at less than £5 million a year.

Rachel Maitland, MND Scotland’s Chief Executive, said: “We are driving this campaign to ensure the voices of those living with MND are heard by the UK Government.

“The average life expectancy for someone with MND is just 18 months from diagnosis. People like Jo do not have time to wait, and neither does our search for a cure.

“We are only able to fund the pioneering research taking place in Scotland, and across the UK, because of the generosity of our supporters.

“MND isn’t incurable, it’s just under-funded. Together, we will beat MND, but we cannot do it without the UK Government’s support.”




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