“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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
Bradda Capital has sold a prime last-mile logistics site in southeast London to Evo Industrial for over €9.3m (£8m). The 3.4-acre site, One Church Manorway, is located in an established industrial area in Erith and has significant development potential. In September 2020, Bradda obtained planning consent to demolish the current 37,662ft² warehouse and to construct a new 60,687ft² facility with a BREEAM sustainability rating of “Very Good”.
David Phillips, managing director of Bradda Capital, said: “We are delighted with the level of bidding interest in the site, which reflected the strength of the logistics real estate market. It is an investment that we bought 10 years ago for income with an eye on the growing demand for warehousing in the London area. With leases at expiry, we realised the potential for adding significant value by securing planning consent for a much larger facility of more than three times the volume”.
A £10million mansion with its own vineyard that produces 100,000 bottles of wine a year and a former nuclear bunker costing £50,000 feature in the most unusual homes picked by property website Rightmove.
All six of the most unique homes for sale on the property website made the list for their standout features.
Tim Bannister, of Rightmove, said: ‘It’s such a joy to be able to share these wonderfully unusual properties with the rest of the nation.
‘From a former nuclear bunker on the south coast to an apartment with a cinema in an underground cave, each one is totally out of the ordinary.’
Here are the six most unusual properties for sale on Rightmove…
1. Former nuclear bunker, Folkestone, £50,000
Included in the list of most unusual properties on Rightmove is this former Royal Observer Corps nuclear bunker
The bunker has a monitoring post with rooms several metres underground, and was built by the Ministry of Defence in 1971
Could you live here? The property in Folkestone has main road access, while the bunker remains in good structural condition
A robust property: Rightmove has described the bunker as ‘one of the most impenetrable properties’ on its website
The property is in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the Kent coastline, with views across the sea towards France
It’s one of the most impenetrable properties on Rightmove – and this former Royal Observer Corps nuclear bunker in Folkestone is available to buy.
It has a guide price of £50,000, but it is being sold auction via Miles & Barr estate agents, with properties at auction often being sold for more than the initial asking figure.
The bunker includes a monitoring post with rooms several metres underground, and it was built by the Ministry of Defence in 1971.
It is in an area of outstanding natural beauty, opposite the North Downs Way walking path, with views from the site across the sea towards France.
2. Two-bed flat in Nottingham, £325,000
From outside, there is no indication of the unusual features contained within this two-bedroom flat in Nottingham
Steps lead down to the unusual lower ground floor flat, which is on the market for £325,000 estate agents Liberty Gate
Unique entertainment space: The flat includes its own underground cave that doubles up as a private home cinema
The flat is part of the St Marys Gate House development, which was originally built as the French Consulate
The cave cinema boasts reclining leather armchairs, a ventilation and heat recovery system and a sizeable wine chiller
Mixing the old with the new: The flat has a modern kitchen with some clever lighting and exposed brickwork
This two-bedroom flat includes its own underground cave that doubles up as a private home cinema.
The cave cinema boasts reclining leather armchairs, a ventilation and heat recovery system and a sizeable wine chiller.
The property is being sold via estate agents Liberty Gate, with a guide price of between £325,000 to £335,000.
3. Four-bed house, St Leonards-on-sea, £1.25m
The perfect pad to party at home? This colourful property in East Sussex has an interesting carnival theme
The St Leonards-on-sea house is being sold via M&W Sales and Lettings, with an impressive asking price of £1.25million
The property is called The Bath House: The detached house has four bedrooms, and was once a Victorian Turkish bathhouse
The house has a bright interior: There are chandeliers hanging from wooden beams and bright red velvet corner sofas
Fancy a game? The main living area includes its own bowling alley with a large clown face light display hanging above it
This colourful property in East Sussex has a carnival theme and includes its own bowling alley in the main living area.
There are chandeliers hanging from wooden beams, bright red velvet corner sofas and ‘dodgem’ artwork on the walls.
The detached house has four bedrooms, and was once a Victorian Turkish bathhouse – hence its name today is The Bath House. It is being sold via M&W Sales and Lettings, and has an asking price of £1.25million.
4. Three-bed house, London, £6.5m
The London property was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the same architect who designed actor Ewan McGregor’s home
Not your typical home in the capital: The property in Kings Cross has three bedrooms with unusual features
Making a splash: The main bedroom suite of this London home comes with an enclosed narrow swimming pool
Not a single white tile in sight: The swimming pool area has grey tiles with a black painted ceiling and walls
The Kings Cross property is on the market for £6.5 million and is being sold via estate agents Sotheby’s International
The main bedroom suite of this house in the heart of London comes with an enclosed swimming pool and private steam room.
The three-bedroom property was designed by Sir David Adjaye, the same architect who designed actor Ewan McGregor’s home.
The Kings Cross property is on the market for £6.5 million and is being sold via estate agents Sotheby’s International.
5. Six-bed mansion with a vineyard, Wales, £10m
As well as its own vineyard, this sprawling six-bedroom mansion has an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court
Plenty of open space: Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, in Wales, boasts an enormous 137 acres of land
The vineyard set-up is being sold as part of the property and it produces an impressive 100,000 bottles of wine a year
A chance to enjoy the Welsh countryside: The stunning property is being sold for £10million via Savills estate agents
Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, includes 29.5 acres of vines and supplies wine to some of the world’s top restaurants
The mansion includes a swimming pool surrounding by a patio with plenty of seating areas to entertain at home
Fancy owning your own vineyard? This property in Wales could fit the bill as it produces 100,000 bottles of wine a year.
Ancre Hill Estates, near Monmouth, is tucked away in the Welsh Borders and boasts an enormous 137 acres of land – including 29.5 acres of vines – and supplies some of the world’s top restaurants, including to French chef Raymond Blanc.
Ancre Hill has been recognised in some of the top international wine competitions in the world and won the Bollicine del Mondo in 2012 when its 2008 Sparkling Wine was voted the best White Sparkling Wine in the world.
At the heart of the estate is a sprawling six-bedroom mansion, which has an outdoor swimming pool and a tennis court. The property is being sold for £10million via Savills estate agents.
6. Houseboat, London, £2m
This luxurious houseboat once belonged to the French star Edith Piaf who used it on tours around France and Europe
A quick translation of the boat’s name: The houseboat is called Flamant Rose, the French for Pink Flamingo
A piece of history: The boat has been based at a mooring at St Katherine’s Dock marina in London since the late 1990s
The historic charm of the yacht is felt throughout, with plenty of unique features on show, such as this ship’s wheel
This luxurious houseboat, named Flamant Rose – French for Pink Flamingo – once belonged to the French star Edith Piaf, who used it on tours around France and Europe.
The boat has been based at a mooring at St Katherine’s Dock marina in London since the late 1990s, and it is now available to buy for £2million via estate agents Sotheby’s International.
Keen to own your own houseboat? It is on the market for £2million via estate agents Sotheby’s International
The Dublin man was reported missing on Sunday morning by Teton County Sheriff’s Office. His car was later found at the start of a hiking trail in the 310,000-acre park.
The National Park Service, the US government agency leading the search for Mr McLaughlin, said he was last seen in the town of Jackson last Tuesday afternoon.
He failed to report for work in Jackson on Thursday and the local sheriff’s office received a missing-person report late on Saturday night.
Grand Teton National Park was contacted early on Sunday when the sheriff’s office received information indicating that Mr McLaughlin may be hiking in the park. A spokeswoman for the National Park Service (NPS) said that park teams with search dogs were out searching the park for the missing man.
She said that Mr McLaughlin is believed to have headed out for a “day hike” without a backpack with him but that “no one knows where he intended to go or where he did go”.
His car was located at Lupine Meadows Trailhead on Sunday morning at an elevation of 6,732ft. The NPS spokeswoman said that there is still snow in the park at about 8,000ft.
“Aerial reconnaissance and ground-search operations were conducted in high probability areas in the park on Sunday, June 13th, in search of McLaughlin with no evidence or leads about his whereabouts. Search operations will continue early Monday morning, June 14th,” said the NPS.
In a public appeal, the NPS called on anyone travelling in “backcountry” inside the park since last Tuesday to come forward if they have any information about Mr McLaughlin.
The Dubliner’s Facebook page says he started working at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort last December and that he previously lived in the French ski resort of Chamonix.