A moving new film has been made featuring a young woman from the Western Isles, it's aim is to an insight into the lives of those people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in a region which has among the highest number of people affected by this condition in the world.
MS is a chronic neurological condition - an auto-immune disease - that affects each person differently. Symptoms are incredibly varied and no two cases of MS are the same.
The incidence of MS in the Outer Hebrides is about 2.5 times higher than the incidence of MS in the South East of England, said a report last year from the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London.
The film features Danielle MacGillivray from Balivanich and was inspired by the pictures of Munich-based photographer Laetitia Vançon. These images – part of an award-winning series called At The End Of The Day - have appeared in publications and exhibitions all across the world since 2017.
Danielle says on Facebook: “From a picture with the inspiring Laetitia Vançon came the opportunity to work with an amazing team of great people, Gareth Warland, Lisa Gruneau, Robin Asselmeyer, Felix Svensson and Georg, to make this wee film.
“Life with MS is different for everyone and each diagnosis has its own story…here's mine!
“MS can be frightening but it's taught me a lot – health is wealth and learn to be kind to yourself.
“Give your body the rest it deserves after a long day, do your best to remove as much stress as possible from your day to day life, and one of the hardest things is to learn to accept the help people offer you.
“So far, thanks to my son, my partner, my family and friends, the NHS, my MS Nurse, I live a happy and healthy life.
“None of it would be possible without them and I can never thank them enough for what they do for me.
“One wee thing to keep in mind is that it costs nothing to be kind. Everyone has their own battles, even if you can't see it, it's there and your kindness might make their day a little bit easier.”
In her blog report on MS in the Islands last year, Beki Aldam, who is Public Engagement Coordinator in the Barts-MS team based at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London, told of their visit last August.
“When we headed up to the beautiful Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides archipelago in Scotland, it seemed unspeakably cruel that in such a rural place, the rate of multiple sclerosis (MS) is three times higher than in London.
“It seems so unfair that people without easy access to a neurologist, who have to fly to Glasgow for a yearly appointment, should be more likely to develop a condition that lasts a lifetime, than their peers in London, who are replete with facilities and specialist health teams.
“That’s why the team, headed up by Professors Gavin Giovannoni and David Baker, decided to hold an event in the Western Isles for people living there who are affected by MS.
“There are 87 people with MS in the Isles, out of 26,000 people living there. The prevalence (all known existing cases) of MS in the Western Isles is, therefore, close to 340/100,000; this is very, very high.
"A recent MS incidence study in the Scottish Highlands puts the incidence of new cases per year at 15/100,000. That makes the rate of MS in the Western Isles amongst the highest in the world.
“But the islands do have a fantastic MS nurse in the form of Rachel Morrison. Rachel travels round the islands to see her patients, covering an area of several hundred miles. It was Rachel that first asked Gavin if we would come up to the Western Isles to speak to her patients. We got together with the neurology team in Glasgow - who cover the Western Isles, and together we organised two information days.
“We decided to run one day of talks for the healthcare professionals, a second for people affected by MS and a Digesting Science event for the children who attended.
“Attending the first day were district nurses, GPs, physios, health visitors and others who care for people with MS in a professional capacity. We wanted to give these professionals more of an insight into specialist care for people with MS, and talks included information on holistic care, self-management and technology in care.
“The second day was for families. People with MS attended with their loved ones and heard about the latest research into nutrition and exercise, Vitamin D, available treatments and the future of MS care.”
The film’s director Gareth Warland is from Brighton in England. He studied Film/Video at London College of Communication and now lives in Stockholm. He says on Facebook: “I made a film about an incredibly inspiring young woman called Danielle MacGillivray. It is a film about living your best life possible despite the obstacles.
“A huge thank you to the guys at BRF @breelfilms for believing and supporting this project and to all of the crew who put countless hours and dedication into it.”
BRF is a film production company based in Stockholm and Los Angeles.
Gareth plans to enter the film to be screened at various film festivals in the future.