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MSWA Bulletin Winter 2019

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MSWA MEMBER HEALING POWER OF MUSIC Professional musician Brett Johns life has always been filled with music. Even from a young age he enjoyed the power of playing the drums and bass guitar, and watching the rhythm reach out and move his audience. He came from a family that lived and breathed music and regularly entered family talent quest competitions. Music opened many doors for Brett, but what he didn’t realise until much later in life, was that one day, music would also give him the strength to cope with a neurological condition. Brett was 43 years old when he started experiencing fatigue, vision impairment and a loss of balance, which led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the year 2000. “Music has always had a positive effect on my life by calming my mind and giving me joy. After my diagnosis I lost interest in it and became a recluse. I shut the door on music and loved ones for 13 years so I could come to terms with how my life was going to change,” said Brett. On top of dealing with his condition, Brett’s personal life was also struggling, dealing with a divorce, managing his own business and providing for his children. “It was a stressful time in my life, but once I was introduced to MSWA, I re-opened those doors. Through the help of MSWA nurses, I learnt to manage my symptoms and let music heal my mind and spirit once again,” Brett said. Brett now lives in Bunbury and attends the local MSWA regional Community and Health Services Centre to access services including occupational therapy, counselling, physiotherapy and weekly Outreach. He also receives domestic support at home which means he can live independently. “I have trouble using one of my legs, so I struggled to get out of the house. MSWA organised a gopher which meant I could re-connect with the community. I enjoy attending the Outreach groups and Member camps where I get to socialise with other people living with neurological conditions. I’ll play my ukulele which makes everyone smile. I love that music can bring enjoyment to other people,” said Brett. These days Brett’s cognitive functioning is slowing down, and he is visually impaired, but his passion for music has never wavered. He appreciates that music brings people together and can help his own motor and cognitive skills, helps to maintain focus, relieve stress and much more. Brett believes in using music to support personal wellbeing and also to strengthen bonds within a community. He now hosts a sing-along with Members during Outreach sessions at Bunbury playing his ukulele and enjoys providing comfort to others living with neurological conditions. “During a time filled with confusion, stress and doubt, music has helped me cope through difficult times. I hope that I can pass my passions onto my grandchildren and that music will continue to have a positive effect on people living with a neurological condition.” 18

MSWA MEMBER THE CIRCLE OF LIFE I’m a grandmother! Yes, yes, I know, I’m far too young to be a grandmother but I started early. (If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.) My clever daughter had a baby boy and I am overjoyed. This baby is not the first in his generation in my family. He has a couple of young cousins, but he is the first who has entered the world descended directly from me. I’m sure I will be an excellent grandma, despite the fact that I have no brothers or sons and I have no idea what to do with baby boys and their, ah... equipment. I’m looking forward to lots of cuddle time, and then using my wheelchair as an excuse to hand him back to his parents when his nappy needs changing, or when he screams. That’s the good thing about being a grandparent, and especially a grandparent with MS and in a wheelchair. This is a season of much joy. But it is also a time of sadness. In a strangely heart-warming coincidence, the birth of my daughter’s baby came hot on the heels of a sad, but expected and natural event. My elderly mother, who lived for the last few years in an aged care facility and suffered with dementia, passed away peacefully this month. Her passing was to some extent a relief for us all, including her, and in some ways was quite beautiful. On the day that she died my sister was visiting her, and after several hours decided to slip out for a short break. She said to mum, who was non-responsive, “I’m going for a little while now. You can have a sleep if you want.” My sister left and within minutes my mother slipped into her final sleep. I keep thinking about the Lion King movie, of all things. I have found myself repeatedly singing the movie’s theme song, ‘The Circle of Life’. Birth and death follow each other eternally. They are normal elements of existence, and so are the emotions associated with them. I feel sad about my mother’s death, and ecstatically happy about the birth of my grandson, both at the same time. And that is ok. It’s a pity that my daughter and her baby son live on the other side of Australia. I know I can fly over there but using a wheelchair does make it more challenging. I’ve done it before, and I’ll be doing it again very soon to introduce myself to my grandson. I have seen photos of him already and I’m sure he is very clever. Therefore, I expect he will soon be using digital technology and I will be able to teach him Christopher Robin poems via cyberspace. I will read to him about ‘Winnie The Pooh’, just as my mother did for me. I wonder if a little bit of my mother’s joyful, fun loving nature will flower in that precious baby. If I have anything to do with it, it will. Circle of Life lyrics © O/B/O Apra Amc Songwriters: Elton John / Tim Rice From the day we arrive on the planet And blinking, step into the sun There's more to see than can ever be seen More to do than can ever be done There's far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round It's the circle of life And it moves us all Through despair and hope Through faith and love Till we find our place On the path unwinding In the circle The circle of life ROS HARMAN MSWA MEMBER 19