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Don’t panic, but I have no feeling on my right side’

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“As far as I was concerned it was an unwanted passenger in the car, nothing I could do to get rid of the company; just acknowledge it was there and continue driving.” This was Ciara O’Meara’s outlook upon receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, or MS, aged only 22.

MS is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. The immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres causing communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body.

Now 34, Ciara describes herself as both defiant and stubborn in nature. One could argue that these traits have served her well. Not one to shy away from a challenge, she has travelled from Africa to Alaska, completed an MA in teaching, and an MA in nursing education. She now works full time as a clinical research nurse.

In 2008, while sitting third-year nursing exams, Ciara began to experience blurry vision and persistent dizziness. On the cusp of graduating, she felt she knew enough to self-diagnose, concluding she was suffering from vertigo. However, it transpired to be an early and common indicator of MS: optic neuritis, inflammation of the nerve which transmits visual stimuli from the eye to the brain.

‘Vertigo’

“I was prescribed a course of Stemetil to help with the ‘vertigo’ and advised to see an optician regarding my vision. I thought the dizziness to be the consequence of spending long study periods at the laptop. It all seemed pretty run of the mill at the time. Within a week the ‘vertigo’ was gone, exams were over, and I was on a plane to Hawaii for the J1 of a lifetime.”

Ciara O’Meara has completed an MA in teaching and an MA in nursing education. She now works full time as a clinical research nurse.
Ciara O’Meara has completed an MA in teaching and an MA in nursing education. She now works full time as a clinical research nurse.

Returning home four months later, tanned, tired, and full of stories to tell, Ciara fought off a series of recurring chest infections. This gave no cause for concern as it was quite common for her to catch a cold/flu upon returning from a sun holiday. But the episode that would ultimately lead to her diagnosis of MS occurred while enjoying a long weekend with family at home in Tipperary.

“When I got out of bed, a feeling of pins and needles pulsated from the top of my right toes and stopped just underneath my right breast. I had full power, but I was numb and tingling down along my right side. I was worried but I didn’t panic. I checked my face in the mirror and spoke aloud – I was in nurse mode, investigating whether it was a stroke I was experiencing. I got dressed and rushed to the kitchen. I turned to Mam and said, ‘Don’t panic but I have no feeling on my right side’. Mam was looking at me, half expecting me to laugh. My little brother, who was only 12 at the time, gave a laugh and drew a kick to my right leg to see if I was really messing. They both knew I wasn’t when I didn’t even flinch.”

Ciara considers the expeditious action taken by her GP that day to be the reason for the prompt identification of the condition. “Within minutes of him examining me I was on route to A&E. He is without doubt the reason I am living so well with MS today.”

Early intervention has shown to provide positive impact by potentially slowing the progression of the lifelong condition. His vigilance ensured Ciara quickly began disease-modifying therapies.

Ciara, we think you have MS

Ciara drove herself to the hospital. Despite having no feeling on her right side, she still had full power. As a student nurse knowing how hospitals function at weekends, she expected a long wait. However, a general medical consultant and her team approached Ciara the following morning. It would be the consultation that bore the deepest imprint on Ciara’s memory. In a distasteful, graceless manner, life-altering news was delivered. “Ciara, we think you have MS.”

The news thrust Ciara into a state of disbelief. “To this day I have no idea what she said after that. She hadn’t even told me her name. She had no regard for the fact I was only 22, alone with no support in a hospital bed.”

The doctor’s words echoed in Ciara’s mind all weekend, she tried consoling herself that it may not be true. Clinging to the fact the doctor had no MRI, and no lumbar puncture results to qualify her diagnosis. When discharged that Monday, despite still having pins and needles in her right side, Ciara headed for the nurse’s ball in Cork. “I am fiercely independent. If someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it even more. Looking back the best thing I could have done was go to that nurse’s ball. It cemented for me that life is for living. Life is here and now. The future is unpredictable for us all.”

A check-up the following year was scheduled, and Ciara carried on as normal. “I graduated as a general nurse and got my first staff nurse post on a general medical ward. I was living with friends, going to the pub, going on holidays and enjoying weekends. The pins and needles stayed hovering around my right thigh, but I never thought about it. It was only when shaving my legs, it would hit me with a bang. The sensation of a razor blade on pins and needles was awful.”

A year later, Ciara had another MRI and check-up. The rescheduling of an appointment to discuss her results raised alarm bells. She began to prepare for bad news. “I immediately knew something was wrong. I knew how the HSE worked. There was no way anyone would be called for an earlier appointment unless something had shown on the MRI.”

On June 15th, 2010, a consultant registrar confirmed what Ciara had feared: “demyelination on the cervical spine, conducive with a diagnosis of MS”. Suddenly, there was an inescapable sense of unpredictability and uncertainty to her life. She did not relish the thoughts of having to commence treatment. Nor could she silence her concern about how it would impact her starting a family.

“The registrar gave me information booklets on the different types of treatment available. I was faced with one of the biggest decisions of my life without any opportunity for guidance or support.”

Ciara began relentlessly searching for more information. Eventually, she decided Rebif would be her first disease-modifying therapy. This involved subcutaneous injections three times per week.

Naming loss of control as one of the most difficult elements of living with a chronic illness, Ciara felt this treatment mitigated that loss, to an extent. “I dreaded having to give it, but I had control with Rebif. I administered it three times a week, on a day and time that suited me.” Ciara’s body tolerated the drug quite well for eight years. During this time, she furthered her education and enjoyed some travelling too. “I was well, and I was ticking through my bucket list at an unmerciful rate.”

In the six months leading up to summer 2017, Ciara’s health began to deteriorate. Suffering increased lethargy, bladder and bowel issues. She chalked this down to her active social life, but an MRI told a different story. The symptoms were indicative of a relapse. New lesions had appeared and it was time for a different drug.

Her consultant advised Tysabri. Unlike Rebif that she could administer herself, this was an intravenous infusion given monthly. “I had no choice as to what day I could take the Tysabri. It had to be the last Tuesday of every month. My fear was being realised, I had to work around MS.” 

First home

At the time, Ciara had been renovating her first home with her fiancé Dave. Consumed by fear, she began to question everything; was there any point in renovating and moving in, what would happen if she were to relapse further, and her biggest fear, what if she could no longer have children?

I didn’t do anything to get this, and I can’t do anything to get rid of it. All I can do is get on with it

She feels an increasing sense of urgency to start a family but conflicted by not feeling ready. “If I wanted to start a family now, they would delay the Tysabri. If not, they would begin the treatment with the intention that I would remain on it for two years before starting a family.” She felt trapped. Resenting how imposing her condition had become. Despite knowing that many women with MS have healthy pregnancies, she was consumed with doubt and fear.

“I came up with a mantra. I didn’t do anything to get this, and I can’t do anything to get rid of it. All I can do is get on with it. Suffering is an inevitable part of life. It is how we choose to deal with it that matters.

Ciara O’Meara with her fiancé Dave
Ciara O’Meara with her fiancé Dave

“MS is unpredictable but, then again, so is life. Worrying about the ‘what ifs’ will take away from me enjoying the here and now.” Ciara believes MS is not a death sentence. Dedicated to raising awareness of MS and to debunking the myths that surround it, she does not want to be known as “Ciara, the girl with MS”.

Living with a chronic illness is both physically and emotionally challenging. MS is not always visible. There are invisible symptoms and issues. She devotes much of her time in raising awareness and educating people about the condition, so that these hidden issues can be understood and supported.

Tolerating Tysabri very well with no new lesions in the last year, Ciara is happy, working full time, and eagerly waiting for lockdown to end so she can walk up the aisle.

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British ex-pat, 67, is forced to DESTROY his Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

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A British ex-pat has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer.

But the situation for 67-year-old Gurney Davey, from Suffolk, could get worse because he is facing six months in prison after a mayor illegally gave him planning permission for the house.

‘I was distraught at first, my blood pressure was sky high and then I lost my wife,’ Mr Davey said this week as he was demolishing his home near Tolox, Malaga.

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Gurney Davey, 67, has been forced to knock down his £130,000 Spanish home two months after his wife died from cancer

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house he built in 2003. 

It was then that legal firm, Manzanares, informed him he would be getting a licence for an ‘almacen’ (or storeroom), which would allow him to build the house.

‘We thought we had done everything right. We got legal advice and went through a lawyer in order to get permission to build the home,’ Davey explained. 

But he was later told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence of his own.

Mr Davey was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71.

‘Diana fought breast cancer for six years before bowel cancer – I am sure the stress brought it on.’ 

‘But thankfully it is now over,’ he explained. ‘It has been going on for so long now, I’ve finally come to terms with what needs to be done. 

‘Having it demolished was actually a relief,’ he added.

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house.

Despite Friday's demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as 'some sort of relief' having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Despite Friday’s demolition also costing him €1,600, he added that it had actually come as ‘some sort of relief’ having fought the legal battle since 2004, over the house be built in 2003. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain before it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey's home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Mr Davey was told that his house was one of around 350 that were illegally given planning permission by the former mayor, Juan Vera, who was eventually handed a prison sentence. Pictured: Mr Davey’s home in Spain after it was demolished on Friday

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs still have the space to roam.

‘This land is my home, it is my life and these dogs are all I have left.’

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed.

The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house.

‘I went straight to Tolox town hall with it. They told me I shouldn’t have received it yet,’ he recalled. ‘They said they were going to be sending the notification to me once they had stamped it.’

He had never been told about the court case that followed on from a Guardia Civil denuncia for an ‘illegal build’, but Davey’s two-bed home should never have been built according to the Malaga court.

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

Now, the father-of-three is planning a minimalist life staying in a converted van, so that his five dogs (pictured) still have the space to roam

In 2016, and then again in 2017, Davey was ordered to knock down his house, but, in common with a neighbour, he waited for more details.

While his Spanish neighbour, Irene Millan, 29, did eventually hear from the court again, she was given six months to ‘legalise’ her property – an option Davey was never given.

However, his neighbour’s apparent good luck turned into a poisoned chalice.

Having spent €20,000 with the town hall to legalise the dwelling, the court finally refused to accept the new paperwork provided by the council.

Instead, demolition was ordered – which went ahead last week.

To add insult to injury Irene’s 54-year-old father, Manuel Millan, whose name was on the deeds, was also sentenced to six months jail and handed a fine of €6 a day for a year.

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour's house

Whether or not he still faces a prison sentence, is yet to be confirmed. The ex-pat only found out about the potential six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it - just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

As he still owns the land, he can still live on it – just not in a house. Pictured: Mr Davey, a former builder, uses a JCB digger to demolish his own home

The couple, originally from Suffolk in the UK, spent £130,000 building their property.

‘It came as a package – a plot with a new home on it.’

Davey admits he and his wife were perhaps naive to follow the advice of their lawyer.

The lawyer, from legal firm Manzanares, told them that planning permission would be applied for as an almacen – or ‘warehouse’.

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

Mr Davey (pictured) was told his house had to be demolished for himself to avoid a six-month prison sentence, with the news coming just after his wife, Diana, died from bowel cancer at the age of 71

This way it would come under the remit of Tolox town hall, which would give permission and later they could ‘legalise’ the property.

The language of one legal letter suggests this would be a mere formality, but the property never got legalised.

In fact, the Tolox mayor of the time, Juan Vera, has since been jailed and fined for his part in a scheme.

In most cases the mayor used the very same ‘lax’ procedure of applying to build an ‘almacen’ to try to keep the prying eyes of the Junta authorities away.

‘We thought that was the way things worked in Spain,’ said Davey, a retired builder. ‘We went to see a lawyer and got advice. It turns out that was not the smart thing to do.

‘Why would we deliberately try to build illegally? It makes no sense that we would sell up everything in the UK and risk it all.’

Mr Davey had earlier said that he was forced to ask the town hall for permission to knock his own property down.

‘I will do it myself. I will borrow a JCB from someone and flatten my home of the past 17 years. I will not let the town hall do it and charge me more money.’

It is not the first time British expats have had their homes demolished in Andalucia, with the Priors, in Almeria, the most famous victims.

They still live in the garage of their house today, over 10 years since the house was knocked down in Vera. 

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Two teenagers died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford

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Two teenagers have died after separate incidents in Dublin and Waterford on Wednesday.

Gardaí in Ballyfermot responded to a call at an equestrian centre at Tay Lane, Co Dublin, at about 2pm.

Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service attended the scene and provided medical assistance to a 15-year-old girl who was injured during an exercise event.

She was removed to Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin, where she later died.

Gardaí said the coroner has been notified. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has also been notified and will carry out an examination on Thursday.

Gardaí said investigations are ongoing. A file will be prepared for the Coroner’s Court.

Separately, gardaí and emergency services attended the scene of a workplace accident in Dungarvan, Co Waterford on Wednesday afternoon.

A boy was pronounced dead at the scene.

The HSA has been notified and will carry out an investigation. A file will be prepared for the coroner.

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Tritax EuroBox acquires Swedish logistics property for €47m

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Tritax EuroBox continues to expand its presence in the Swedish market with a €47m acquisition. The asset held freehold has a total gross internal area of approximately 28,900m² and comprises two purpose-built logistics facilities (one of 16,200m² and the other 12,700m²), located in the heart of the prime logistics location in the Port of Gothenburg. 

 

The Port of Gothenburg has been ranked as the most attractive logistics location in the Nordics for 20 years by Intelligent Logistik, the leading Nordic logistics media platform. There are currently no vacant logistics buildings in the port area. The Port is home to Scandinavia’s largest container terminal, which is forecast to grow over the coming years. The buildings are fully let to Agility AB, Nordicon AB and Vink Essaplast Group AB, generating a total annual rent of €1.79m on leases with a weighted average unexpired lease term of six years.  The rent reflects a rate of €62.50psm per annum.  All leases are annually indexed to 100% of Swedish CPI.

 

Nick Preston, Fund Manager of Tritax EuroBox, commented: “We are delighted to acquire our first asset in the Nordics which aligns with our disciplined investment approach and our long term strategic goals. The asset held freehold is located in the region’s strongest logistics market and offers asset management upside through working closely with the occupiers to achieve their business plans and increase rents to market levels. We expect to see continued strong market rental growth in the Port of Gothenburg, due to the natural constraint of land supply in the port area, and the increasing demand from occupiers. The Port of Gothenburg has a clear plan for growth, with significant infrastructure investment committed, further strengthening this location.”

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